Louis Michel Affair: Lobbies Switch From Influencing To Directly Writing European Laws

Belgian Member of European Parliament Louis Michel was recently ranked the second worst regarding Data Privacy issues by the LobbyPlag.eu website for submitting 158 amendments that damage online privacy. But Louis Michel had never heard of those amendments. He didn’t even know he submitted them.

In Belgium, Louis Michel is a very famous politician who has been a mayor, a minister, and a respected liberal leader. His son is the current leader of the Belgian French-speaking liberal party (MR, Mouvement Réformateur). Hugely popular, Louis Michel easily became a Member of European Parliament (MEP) in 2009.

But recently, it has been revealed by the website LobbyPlag.eu that Louis Michel has proposed 158 amendments against Data Privacy which looks heavily influenced by industrial lobbies. This makes him the second worst MEP regarding Data Privacy, after the German Axel Voss.

When asked about his position, Louis Michel first replied that he didn’t know what it was all about, that he was a “radical advocate of privacy (sic)”. Upon closer investigation, he replied that he has “never seen, never known, never physically signed any of those amendments (sic)”. When those amendments were proposed, he was travelling in Mali.

During the day, it was discovered that those amendments have been proposed by his main assistant, Luc Paque (who has been a Belgian senator). Luc Paque openly admitted that he received suggestions from several people and industrial organisations, including FEB and Agoria (both are Belgian industrial associations). Because Louis Michel was not reachable and there was a deadline, he decided to rush the amendments without the consent of his boss, using his boss’ name.

Luc Paque has officially resigned and Louis Michel seems to consider the case as closed.

What this story teaches us is terrifying to multiple degrees.

We have now the proof that the European laws are directly written by the industry. It is not about lobbies any more, the industry itself is writing the European law. That’s it. They do whatever they want.

They don’t even have to corrupt elected politicians. The system works so well for them that, if we take Louis Michel’s allegations for granted, politicians write laws without even knowing a single word of the content. If it was not for the work of transparency activists like LobbyPlag.eu, nobody would have known the amendments proposed by Louis Michel, including Louis Michel himself!

It is well known in Belgian circles, that Louis Michel has never been inclined to new technologies and that he is not comfortable with computers. Given the technicality of the amendments, it is well possible that Louis Michel is not even able to understand most of them. And it would be very interesting to ask Luc Paque if he understands them and can explain, for each of them, why he thinks it was a good idea.

What is even more downright terrifying is that an MEP and experienced politician like Louis Michel doesn’t see any problem here. He places the blame on one of his subordinates without taking any responsibility himself. We now have people who are trusted by thousands of voters, who are paid really good salaries and, when a problem happens, publicly put the blame on their own employees, thinking it is not their responsibility to know what the assistant they employ is doing in their own name.

But for one story like this, how many others are still waiting to be discovered? This is a definite proof that you can’t trust the system, that total transparency is needed and that transparency activists are badly needed.

Of course, there’s still the possibility that Louis Michel is lying, that he was corrupted. Even though it would not be acceptable, it would, at least, be understandable. It would put the fault on corruption, not on the system itself.

I expect a lot of “anti-European” comments to put the blame on the European institutions. Don’t worry, it’s probably exactly the same in your own country. But we may have not enough activists like LobbyPlag.eu in each country. This illustrates why we need Europe and to fight together for transparency.

Maybe it would have been preferable for everyone to hear that Louis Michel was simply corrupt.

Which tells a lot about the state of our political system. Our politicians are not even competent enough to be corrupt.

Picture by European Commission DG ECHO.


  1. Caleb Lanik

    Louis Michel needs to resign too. How do 158 amendments get proposed in your name without you ever hearing about it? He’s either lying or incompetent.

    1. Rob Snelders

      or both

  2. Christie

    What the data from the same website shows as well is that the total number of amendments submitted by Swedish Pirate Party MEPs is zero. Was the initial law so well conceived that further input wasn’t necessary? I mean, there’s a serious problem when Pirates don’t take part in issues that are of utmost importance to their voters.

  3. juan c

    but, shouldn’t elected representatives be liable anyway? don’t they swear anything o suscribe some form of commitment? If his assistant abused his authority, he should be incarcerated, like i suppose would happen to me if i were to use Michel’s credit card and pretend to be him, right? if, on the other hand, Michel gave his assistant his consent to do (whatever), then he must assume complete responsability.
    “Our politicians are not even competent enough to be corrupt”. i don’t know about that. it doesn’t have to be “money-induced” corruption. elitist groups protect themselves above “others”, even when they are not close. it’s survivalism. and it’s a corruption of the system. it’s an oligarchy.

  4. Anonymous

    resigning should not save Luc Paque from prosecution. he abused his position, whether for personal gain or not, i didn’t read, but i am reasonably convinced that he didn’t do this for nothing!
    Louis Michel should also be charged because he obviously didn’t bother to keep up to date with changes that were being made in general, let alone changes that were being changed in his name. it shows a complete lack of interest in his duties and his position!
    it also shows, as stated, just how bad things have got. if any individual from an ordinary walk of life tried to do what these lobbyists do (and get away with), there would have been hell to pay. as it is done by people representing powerful companies and industries, it is ignored. all lobbying in all forms in all countries should be banned and anyone caught or even suspected of following this road either as a giver, doer or a receiver, should be severely punished!
    the EU is fast becoming another USA. look at how USA instigated, secret, talks are held, involving nations that get bullied into agreement. they are doing the same thing in the EU with certain powerful people influencing deals and decisions that are to the detriment of the people and to the benefit of certain industries, which are usually in the USA, and clauses within theses ‘deals’ forbid any changes. these must stop! if allowed to continue, we may as well hand control of the planet to the USA. that is what they are after, and are doing so via supposed ‘trade deals’ involving for the main parts, the internet. the nation that controls the internet, controls the world because there is nothing that cant be found, be relayed, be achieved by this, the most powerful tool ever invented. once that happens, our society is doomed and the fighting done decades ago to ensure freedom will have been a total waste!

  5. next_ghost

    Damn, I really need to write the website for crowd-sourced tracking of legislative proposals that I’ve been planning for so long… If only day had 48 hours so I could find some time to do it…

    1. Toni

      I would donate to a Kickstarter for this.

  6. None

    This is standard Belgian politician operating procedure.

    BELGIAN OFFICIALS DO NOT READ WHAT THEY SIGN AND/OR VOTE. Sometimes, one will speak up against the thing their party tells them to vote “yes”, so that a few voters notice that SOMEone is telling them exactly how they’re getting fucked, but then their party demands that they vote for the bad thing anyway.

  7. drew

    You cannot take one instance of impropriety and declare that as a default position of an entire organisation.

    Whilst there are no doubt multiple instances of this sort of behaviour, please be more judicious in your liberal sprinkling of partisan accusations. You do more harm to the privacy movement than good.

  8. None

    No, it’s endemic.
    That time Wallonia sold its metalworking industries for an amount equal to that industry’s quarterly profit, ONE politician stood up and said “it’s a really bad idea” and was told to shut up and vote following the party line.
    That time there was a debate about the Belgian F1 circuit, it ended with a proposal from the organizers to Belgian politicians, ONE of whom stood up and told the others that signing it would cost them bazillions for no profit, and was told to shut up and vote following the party line.

    It happens ALL THE TIME.

    I’m too lazy to go find the names of which politician did each, and the third example I’ve forgotten too much about to list it.

  9. AnonCoward

    Check out this case:

    > [Tom] Moore introduced legislation on April 1, 1971 commending Albert de Salvo—more commonly known as the Boston Strangler—including this wording:

    >> This compassionate gentleman’s dedication and devotion to his work has enabled the weak and the lonely throughout the nation to achieve and maintain a new degree of concern for their future. He has been officially recognized by the state of Massachusetts for his noted activities and unconventional techniques involving population control and applied psychology.[2]

    > After it was passed unanimously by the House, Moore later withdrew the legislation, explaining he had only offered it to prove an important point that his fellow legislators didn’t read much of the legislation they voted on.


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