October 9, 2013
EU Affairs Lobbying: 4 Issues to Remember
Hi, my name is Andras Baneth and I am the co-founder and Director of the European Training Academy.
Today, I’m going to speak about what I call “the four key topics” that are very specific to EU affairs lobbying. These four topics are quite random and I picked them at my own discretion. However, I think all four of them are important to bear in mind for every government affairs specialists, for every public affairs expert dealing with European Union affairs.
The first one is the “timelines”. What I mean here is when dealing with EU affairs, you need to consider that whatever topic you have on your mind, regulatory or other, most likely this topic had already emerged two, three or even more years ago on the radar screen of European officials.
Or vice versa, if you would like an EU level action to be taken in your industry or something that concerns your Member State or other country, you may need to wait up to two or more years until a European-level legislation or European-level action is done by the institutions because the timelines in most cases are rather long. So this certainly affects your planning, your budget and the resources and the rhythm of the resources that you allocate to lobbying that specific measure in Brussels.
Number two is “the role of the institutions“, and more specifically, the European Parliament as a rather unique political legislative decision making body. Because the European Parliament is complex in its views (in terms of being rather political and at the same time representing interest, representing citizens’ interests, representing an issue from a European perspective and at the same time looking at the issue through very different angles than the European Commission or the Council of Ministers).
So considering the Parliament’s role, in some cases ‘politicizing’ an issue, certainly has some bearing on your relationship with the Parliament and your consideration of the topic that you would like to lobby for.
Number three is the “diversity of the EU’s Member States”. You many have an issue which is very differently interpreted in a few Member States than others. So for instance when it comes to food legislation or agriculture or the understanding of contractual law, it is highly diverse when I look at the UK or Ireland or when I look at the perspective of France, Italy or Spain.
Depending on the issue, you may find very large differences between the national approaches of the Member States, so that is something to bear in mind, that just because EU institutions and especially the European Commission proposes a piece of legislation, it may need to have a lot of exceptions, it may need to have what they call ‘derogations’ from the main rule because the Member States’ specificity needs to be considered. So you can bring in new arguments for instance as it happened in the Tobacco field where Sweden has a very unique legislation so they got a derogation from the mainstream European tobacco legislation.
Number four is the “lack of a central authority”. As opposed to the United States where the President and the White House are very powerful, in the EU system you can hardly find a similarly powerful institution. Certainly, the European Commission is very powerful in deciding whether or not it would like to propose legislation in the financial services field or legislation in regulating gambling or other matters.
But even though the Commission has these strong powers, it doesn’t have the ultimate authority to decide on these because power in Brussels, in EU affairs, is dispersed. So when you have an interest, something to deal with, a regulatory matter or any kind of industry interest or you are a civil rights group or you would like to make your voice heard as a health activist, you need to put your message out to all the institutions and not just focus on one or the other. Because concerted action, tailored messages are the ones that can have impact, and not a very strong focus on just one institution or another. Power is not centralized in a classic sense in Brussels, which has its own traditions and it has its own political reasons.
Thank you very much for watching. This is Andras Baneth from the European Training Academy.