March 14, 2013

7 Minutes

European Commission, The Lisbon Treaty

7 Components of Being a Successful EU Lobbyist

Hi, my name is András Baneth and I am the co-founder and Director of the European Training Academy. Today, I am going to speak about the so-called “7 Components of Being a Successful Public Affairs Specialist” in Brussels.

When dealing with EU affairs, in my view there are 7 key components that can make you an effective and efficient government affairs specialist in the EU arena. These seven are the following:

1.  Know the EU institutions. It is fundamental that you are aware of the competencies, the role, the composition, the institutional culture and the mindset of European Commission, of the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers, the various EU agencies and other bodies and institutions that play a role in European policy making: the ones that actually affect your industry, your country, or your specific field f interest.

2. Know the decision-making procedures. Influence in Brussels is translated through the votes. Understanding whether a certain issue is voted by unanimity or qualified majority or whether it requires a specific procedure, it all has an influence on your very own powers to affect and impact the policymakers themselves. So, knowing which decision-making applies and understanding the dynamics and the votes in the Parliament or internally in the Commission and the powers of various institutions, from the perspective of decision-making, is fundamental to being an effective and efficient interest representative in EU affairs.

3. Knowing the right people. Certainly, having a large network inside EU institutions and around, in trade associations, diplomatic bodies, private companies, federations and the like, is very important. At the same time, knowing which desk officer is responsible for a given directive which will have a huge impact on your industry or knowing which Member of the European Parliament will be the rapporteur, the person dealing with the amendments on the given file, has a huge impact on your effectiveness as an interest representative even if you are diplomat or non-governmental organization, activist or you are a private company representative.

4. Know the legislative cycle. By this I mean understanding the timelines that operate in European level decision-making.  If you know in advance which proposal by the European Commission is going to come up in two years, this will give you an amazing head-start, an amazingly higher level of influence compared to your competitors or peers. Having a good understanding of the timing and the role of a white paper or a green paper or the role of impact assessments is fundamental to knowing the legislative cycle because this feeds back into your own very interest representation and to your own internal planning of resources, time and dedicated staff.

5. Know the EU Member States. However common sense this may sound, knowing the 27 or soon 28 European Union Member States is, I find it crucial to monitor developments in terms of government priorities in different European Member States. For instance, if your file is heavily opposed by France or Austria or the Northern countries, Scandinavians or Baltics, this will have a very strong impact on its success or failure in the Council. Thanks to elections in EU member states, your file is going to be heavily affected through the European level. Therefore it is extremely important and all this is done through your understanding and monitoring of different EU Member States.

6. Know how to communicate. Most government affairs specialists are really good in written communication and communication in general. But communication in the EU arena has a little bit of a different meaning. From time to time I hear EU officials from the Commission, Parliament and other institutions complain about a very high level of complexity in the submissions, in the inputs that they receive from industry or NGOs. Knowing how to communicate also involves knowing very well the type and style of information that the audience is actually expecting from you. And not just communicating with EU public officials but also communicating with the Brussels-based media is fundamental to your lobbying success.

7. Know your objective. This is the last point here in really becoming an effective and efficient European affairs specialist. Know whether your final goal is to put pressure on decision-makers that they should change a given legislation, for example, should they change Article 5 in the draft proposal or your goal is to try to “kill” that proposal altogether and have it removed from the agenda. Maybe your goal in the EU arena is “simply” to put your case, your issue, your concern on the radar screen of European decision-makers. That maybe a very challenging act but this could be done through parliamentary hearings, through a media campaign or several other means. So knowing the final objective in terms of government relations and interest representation is fundamental for your success as an EU affairs lobbyist or as an EU affairs diplomat or any kind of interest representative.

Last, thank you very much for your attention and if you’d like to hear more about this topic, I’d be more than happy to speak to you or create a training course for your organization as part of the European Training Academy’s offering. Thank you for watching this video.

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