Maurice Fraser (Special adviser and lobbyist)

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Maurice Fraser

Maurice Fraser is senior counselor to the PR and lobbying firm APCO Europe and advises APCO clients on European and international public policy issues. He is a teaching fellow of the London School of Economics and Political Science and director of the consultancy Agora Projects Ltd.

Fraser was special adviser to UK foreign secretaries Sir Geoffrey Howe, John Major, and Douglas Hurd between 1989 and 1995, and London correspondent of the French politics weekly, Valeurs Actuelles, between 1996 and 1998. He is a former chairman of the Communications Committee of the European Movement (1996-97) and the Forum for European Philosophy, a council member of the Federal Trust for Education and Research and the Britain in Europe campaign, and a member of the advisory committee of the Centre for European Reform.[1]

Glossing over neo-liberalism

Fraser produces lobby material and propaganda on mainly European issues with a neo-liberal orientation, as the editor of the glossy brochures for summit meetings of the United Nations, World Trade Organization, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development. These are produced via Newsdesk Communications or Newsdesk Media Group. Newsdesk Media Group describes itself thus:

"We are a broadly based communications group comprising complementary media companies. Headquartered in London and Washington DC , we deliver bespoke customer publications and digital activity in support of our clients' strategic brand and marketing objectives."[2]

Newsdesk Media Group was founded in 1995 by Alan Spence, the Chief Executive, who worked with the FT group, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal. He was assisted by Anthony Hilton, the financial editor of the London Evening Standard, who is Chairman of the company.[3] The US operation was launched in Washington DC in 2005, and their US board of advisors includes Eugene Rotberg, former Treasurer of the World Bank, General (Retd) Jay Garner, Lt. Gen. (Retd) Ronald Hite, and Anne Van't Veer, former Secretary-General of the Berne Union.

Ministry of Defence work

Newsdesk Media Group's client list (which includes PR work) includes: AeroSpace and Defence Industries Association of Europe, Airbus, Asia Society, Atradius (formerly NCM), Bankers' Association for Finance and Trade, Barbican, Berne Union, Defence Export Services Organisation, Defence Logistics Organisation, The Defence Manufacturers Association, Disposal Services Agency (MOD)Eurex, Eurocontrol, Eurofighter, European Banking Federation, European Climate Exchange / Chicago Climate Exchange, Export Credits Guarantee Department, Federation of European Securities Exchanges, The Futures & Options Association, German British Forum, Government of Kazakhstan, International Capital Market Association, International Finance Corporation, International Underwriting Association, London Fashion Weekend, London Metal Exchange, Ministry of Defence UK, NASDAQ, National Association of Pension Funds, New York Board of Trade, New York Mercantile Exchange, PEP & ISA Managers' Association (PIMA), Royal Bank of Scotland, South Atlantic Medal Association, TeleManagement Forum, The Trafalgar Weekend, UK.[4]

Most of the Newsdesk Media Group's clients appear to be in the defence industries and banking. The group's website has links to various case studies.[5]

Fraser is also the Director of Agora Projects, which publishes support material for the G7/G8 Summits, such as its glossy brochures.[6] He is the editor of "Shaping a new global economic order – G8 Summit 2008: Growth and Responsibility".[7]

In addition to its publishing work, Agora has managed international summit meetings of the UN, NATO, OECD. The editors of Agora Projects have also been responsible for three editions of The World Trade Brief, produced in association with the WTO and distributed to delegates at Seattle, Doha and Cancun.[8]

Agora Projects works in partnership with Whitehall departments (notably the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of Trade and Industry through the Global Opportunities Fund) including for the State Visit of The President of The People's Republic of China in October 1999 in partnership with the China Foreign Economic Relations and Trade Publishing House. Agora Projects has opened an office in Hong Kong. Agora also works in partnership with the Federal Trust on a project for "Enhancing trade policy-making in China: A capacity-building partnership in Guangdong Province", the result of a collaboration between Agora and the Guangdong WTO Affairs Consultation Service Center in China, the Federal Trust for Education and Research, and the International Trade Policy Unit at the London School of Economics. In this case, Agora is working as a consultancy.[9]


Fraser is a trustee of the Franco-British Council along with Nick Butler, Nick Clegg MP, Catherine Fieschi, David Goodhart, François Heisbourg, Dominique Moïsi. The Franco-British Council was set up:

...on the joint initiative of President Georges Pompidou and Prime Minister Edward Heath, when Britain joined the European Community. Its setting up was formally announced in a communiqué issued in May 1972 at the end of the State visit by the Queen to France. Basic funding is provided by the two governments.[10]

Although on the APCO website Fraser mentions that he has an advisory position with the Centre for European Reform (CER),[11] this is most likely back in its early days, as he is uncredited in the CER's own account of itself. The CER's website does, however, contain many references to APCO, which funds and lobbies with the CER.[12] APCO's lobbying approach, judging by documents on its website, may take the form of a breakfast meeting with a European Commissioner (or Douglas Alexander or Sir John Grant) or a seminar on whatever APCO and others are hired by fee-paying clients [13] to promote. Examples include the 5 October 2004 CER seminar on EU-Turkey sponsored by the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation Turkey, APCO Europe and the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

An article Fraser wrote for the October 1998 CER Bulletin shows the type of advice he gives to Europe's politicians. Titled revealingly, "Transparency is no panacea?", the article begins:

"We all want openness and accountability, but let's be clear that they don't guarantee the most effective method of Government. Several of the objectives we set for the European Union - an efficient single market; a single currency which commands public confidence and proves a reliable store of value; a Community which redirects its spending away from agriculture and towards the new members and the neediest regions - are in fact most likely to be achieved by a degree of insulation from public scrutiny and the media spotlight."[14]

Fraser goes on to say that if a TV or radio station did move into European Union decision-making sessions,

"can anyone suppose that the real action would take place in open session? The horse-trading would simply move into the corridors, lending even more credence to conspiracy theories. Thus the policy of so-called openness would diminish the credibility of the Council."

Fraser paints a dispiriting picture of the absence of democratic process in the European Council, referring to deals made behind closed doors:

"Votes in the Council are already rare, because the framework of a deal is usually stitched up beforehand, in COREPER, the committee of permanent representatives to the EU."

Unlike most European voters, however, who want the European Union's workings to become more open and transparent, Fraser seems to think they should continue in the opposite direction:

"If the media were present, ministers would avoid taking votes altogether. Viewers would be mystified witnesses to an eerie consensus, Japanese management-style. Greater transparency would simply lead to easier identification of the losers. With difficult and acrimonious discussions looming on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and the structural funds, a policy of openness would only make it harder for political leaders to take difficult and unpopular decisions."

Fraser justifies this process of hidden government by implying that there is consensus on the direction that the European politicians are taking us in:

"In a post-ideological world, the goods which for generations looked inherently contentious (like free markets, tax cuts, deregulation and privatisation) have seen their universal validity affirmed in much of the world."

In such a climate, Fraser suggests, democratic accountability is actually undesirable:

"The more accountability we force on the European Central Bank, the more we will encourage expectations which - under the terms of the Maastricht Treaty - cannot be fulfilled."

In Fraser's CV on the London School of Economics website, he lists among his research interests and expertise:

"the validity of Left and Right as explanatory concepts in European politics." [15]

Since 1998 Fraser has reported on some tens years' worth of stitched-up deals and unaccountable decision-making in the journal, EU Policies and Priorities, of which he is editor.[16] The journal features articles by Peter Sutherland, Katinka Barysch, the European Round Table of Industrialists, International Crisis Group, KPMG Europe and the Economist Intelligence Unit, who give their views on how the world should be shaped.


APCO gained a little notoriety themselves in Ken Silverstein's 2007 article for Harper's Magazine.[17] This presented lobbyists as the "crucial conduit through which pariah regimes advance their interests in Washington", stating of APCO specifically that

" has experience working not just on behalf of authoritarian regimes in general—the dictatorship of General Sani Abacha in Nigeria, for example, which employed the firm in 1995, the same year it hanged nine democracy activists—but for Caspian regimes in particular, having done P.R. work for the oil-rich kleptocracy of Azerbaijan."

Silverstein describes the APCO team he met while he and his friend were posing as a private group up to no good in Kazakhstan:

"There was Elizabeth Jones, a former assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia until 2005 and an ex-ambassador to Kazakhstan; Robert Downen, a professorial type in a shirt and tie who had previously served as a senior aide to Senator Robert Dole and was a fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies; and, in a pinstriped suit, Jennifer Millerwise Dyck, a former spokeswoman for the CIA (where, I later read in her biography I received that day, she 'initiated the agency’s first coordinated corporate branding and advertising strategy') and for Vice President Dick Cheney."

In the process outlined by APCO, think tanks and academics, as seemingly independent and therefore credible sources, are used to build “coalition support” by offering favorable views on the client. This could be achieved, the APCO team explained, through "events". One possibility outlined was to hold a forum preferably built around a visit to the United States by a official. Possible hosts suggested include The Heritage Foundation, the Center for Strategic & International Studies, and the Council on Foreign Relations. The Harper's article quotes APCO's Downen as saying,

"'Last week I contacted a number of colleagues at think tanks,' Downen went on. 'Some real experts could easily be engaged to sponsor or host a public forum or panel that would bring in congressional staff and journalists. [...] If we can get a paper published or a speech at a conference, we can get a friendly member of Congress to insert that in the Congressional Record and get that printed and send it out [..] So you take one event and get it multiplied.'”

Barry Schumacher, a senior vice president at APCO, is quoted in the Harper's article as saying that The Economist magazine is amenable to hosting such events. APCO does PR work for the Centre for European Reform or CER, which was founded in 1996 by Charles Grant, former defence editor of The Economist magazine. APCO's Elizabeth Jones (mentioned by Silverstein) attended a meeting of the Center for Strategic & International Studies along with a representative of the CER.[18]

One can find this APCO approach deployed in the deputy director of the Centre for European Reform, Heather Grabbe’s, writing at the behest of APCO Europe on Turkey and the EU in 2004, where

“Turkey is best described as what British diplomat Robert Cooper calls a ‘modern’ state, in the sense that its political culture is unused to ‘post-modern’ ideas about pooling sovereignty or political integration in a wider entity like the EU accession and the strength of the Erdogan government mean that there is a window of opportunity for the EU to help transform Turkey into a more democratic, stable and economically competitive country.”[19]

One can also see the working methods of APCO, a business partner with the US in what Robert Cooper would term 'post-modernising' Iraq[20]as a ‘hidden hand’ in the 2007 ‘European Union: the next 50 years’ edited by the CER and APCO’s Maurice Fraser and published via Financial Times Business with Agora Projects (Fraser’s outfit and he worked for the FT) in association with LSE (also his place of employment). The work boasts contributions purportedly by such busy individuals as:

Angela Merkel, German chancellor José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission Howard Davies, director of the London School of Economics Javier Solana, EU high representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Olli Rehn, EU commissioner for enlargement Danuta Hubner, EU commissioner for regional policy Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, finance minister of Italy Carl Bildt, foreign minister of Sweden Peter Sutherland, chairman BP, former director-general of the WTO Richard Descoings, director of Sciences Po, Paris Vaira Vike-Freiberga, president of Latvia Theodora Bakoyannis, foreign minister of Greece Bernard-Henri Levy, philosopher and writer Nicolas Sarkozy, leader of UMP Party, France Robert Cooper, director-general Politico-Military Affairs, Council of the European Union and writer on international affairs Gérard Mortier, director of the Opera de Paris Ernest-Antoine Seillière, president of UNICE

The London School of Economics with the truth

The LSE is also used to host ‘a major public debate’ (a shocking arithmetical and terminological miscalculation on the part of a school of economics although it was funded by the European Commission) to spread the propaganda with a panel including Robert Cooper, Professor Timothy Garton Ash (who aided in the formation of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy with Cooper) and Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform. Grant engaged in further promotion in Prospect Magazine[21]

One anomaly (easily explained by the public diplomacy of Demos and the Foreign Policy Centre) is the unusual license to publish afforded to a senior member of her majesty's diplomatic service given to Cooper. His new liberal imperialism was initially termed 'voluntary imperialism' or 'cooperative imperialism' —there seems to have been an understandably inexact terminological in its early incarnation till the buzz words stuck thanks to all the publicity.

Other conferences where we see Grant, Leonard, Fraser and Cooper (or similar alignments) gather include that of May 2006 at St Antony's College, where one could go to see Leonard on “The debate about the embargo on arms sales to China” or Grant on “Iran and the broader Middle East” and Cooper on “Superpower Europe?”.[22]

Advisory council


  1. "Maurice Fraser", APCO Worldwide website, accessed October 2008
  2. "Welcome to Newsdesk Media Group", Newsdesk Media Group website, accessed October 2008
  3. "About us", Newsdesk Media Group website, accessed October 2008
  4. "Client list", Newsdesk Media Group website, accessed October 2008
  5. "Client list", Newsdesk Media Group website, accessed October 2008
  6. For example, "G8 Summit 2006: Issues and Instruments", G8 Information Centre website, accessed October 2008
  7. "Shaping a new global economic order – G8 Summit 2008: Growth and Responsibility", edited by Maurice Fraser, Agora Projects and Newsdesk Communications Ltd., London, 2007
  8. "Agora Projects Ltd.", The Federal Trust website, accessed October 2008
  9. "Agora Projects Ltd.", The Federal Trust website, accessed October 2008
  10. "About the FBC", Franco-British Council website, accessed October 2008
  11. "[Maurice Fraser]", APCO website, accessed October 2008
  12. See, for example, "CER Annual Report 2004", accessed October 2008
  13. "APPC Register June 06-August 06", accessed October 2008
  14. Maurice Fraser, "Transparency is no panacea?", CER Bulletin, October 1998, accessed October 2008
  15. "Mr. Maurice Fraser", London School of Economics website, accessed October 2008
  16. "EU Policies and Priorities 2008", accessed October 2008.
  17. "Ken Silverstein, "Their men in Washington: Undercover with D.C.'s lobbyists for hire", Harper's Magazine, July 2007, accessed October 2008
  18. "The Future of the EU and its Relations with the United States", 2006, accessed October 2008
  19. Grabbe, Heather (2004) From drift to strategy: why the EU should start accession talks with Turkey, Centre for European Reform.