March 24, 2013

7 Minutes

European Commission, The Lisbon Treaty

EU Institutions’ Mindset

Hi, my name is Andras Baneth and I am the director and co-founder of the European Training Academy.

Success of EU Affairs Specialists

Today, I am going to speak about something that is a fundamental element to success of EU Affairs specialists and in the success of having a European level campaign or any kind of lobbying activity in Brussels.

This is topic is what I call the Mindset of European Institutions or the culture of different EU Institutions. The reason why this is so important is because the message, the position, the topic that you represent (which may concern genetically modified organisms, ie. GMOs or pharmaceuticals, anything related to solar energy or wind power or even human rights) will all have one thing in common: ‘How do you approach with your issue a given EU institution?’

The European Commission’s Mindset

More specifically on this topic if I look at the European Commission, it will always observe your organisation and your issue through the angle, through the objective of having the European interest in mind.

So if your issue concerns human rights, and that is your single concern, a single vertical area, or specific group, it may not be needed to act on European level because European interest overall is much broader, it needs to include several Member States, it needs to include a certain horizontal level of that given interest. Or if your concern is a given industry in France or in Estonia, this may not be examined by the European Commission but maybe by some other EU Institution or on the national level itself.

The European Commission will always look at the topic whether that overall European interest includes a sufficient number of stakeholders, industries, Member States or a sufficient number of complaint on a given issue to act on that matter.

The European Parliament’s Perspective

Having said that, the European Parliament will have a very different perspective because a Member of the European Parliament will always examine your case, your issue, your organisation through essentially 4 perspectives or the mix of 4 approaches.

1. The Member of the European Parliament will look at it through the eyes of his or her nationality. “Is this of concern to me?” Are you coming from the same Member State as me? Are you affecting the Member State, the country where I am coming from? This is one angle.

2. The second one will be the Member’s political affiliation. Is this issue really of concern to the Socialists Group or the Conservative Group or the Liberals? That is the second angle through which they will decide whether they speak to you, take your issue out and voice it on European forum.

3. Number three is their vertical interest, meaning if they are sitting on the Civil Liberties Committee, then they will certainly be much more responsive to certain issues as opposed to them sitting in the Internal Market Committee. So the question is: what is their specific industry or specific field of interest because that will relate to your industry or that will relate to your organisation.

4. Number four is their very own personal priority because before becoming Member of the Parliament or even in their current Member State, if they are personally interested in a more healthy eating, then they will be more likely to speak to you on e.g. a GMO-related issue.

So these four will determine the approach and the mindset of the Members of the European Parliament who represent European citizens directly and at the same time they will look at it from an overall European perspective.

Different View of the Council of Ministers & National Representations

The Council of Ministers and the 27 or soon 28 National Representations, the Permanent Representations in Brussels, they will have yet again a different view of the matter. They are the ones who really are standing up for national interests. So if your case has a very strong relevance to Finland because you are representing a company that will create 150 jobs in Finland, the Finnish National Representation will be eager to speak to you and voice your position in the Council of Ministers. So the Council of Ministers is really looking at the matters through the national angle and only as a secondary or tertiary way will they look at it from the European perspective.

So this heavily, heavily impact the way you formulate the message. Because if you would like to have an amendment passed on a given Commission proposal, you will need to formulate the message with very different words and with very different framing when you are addressing it to the European Commission as opposed to you going to a member of the European Parliament who will have very different priorities, very different perspective than the person seating as an attaché in the Council of Ministers.

Get in Touch

For other EU Institutions, I am happy to give you further information at one of our training courses that we organised at the European Training Academy so please do get in touch and let’s speak. This is Andras Baneth from the European Training Academy. Thank you for watching.

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