EU Lobbying Handbook

A guide to modern participation in Brussels

Written based on personal experience in the field, the book is also a testimonial of the appeal of the profession today. Addressing the reader directly, the author gives introductions both to the peculiarities of European policy making and to the everyday pitfalls and challenges in the work of an EU lobbyist. A concise toolkit of methods and tactics is provided in order to make influencing the EU political process more successful. Insightful contributions of high-profile guest authors provide a wide range of perspectives on the practical implications of public affairs management and interest representation. These illustrations of what makes lobbying in the EU such a challenging task represent a valuable asset of this remarkably easy to read guide to the Brussels labyrinth.

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EU Lobbying Handbook

Andreas Geiger

INTRODUCTION
The EU is a complex system with its many layers and institutions, and it can be hard to grasp how to exert influence on and navigate between its bodies. This is where this book comes into play: it is a how-to-do-it handbook about lobbying in the European Union. If you are a company CEO, consultant, association or NGO representative, or the one in charge of your company’s government relations, public affairs, or public policy affairs – this handbook aims to give you practical guidance when looking for an effective way to influence the European legislative and administrative bodies.

Whether you represent a stakeholder from Europe, the US, Russia, China, India, or elsewhere – the intention of this book is to help you find your way through the jungle of EU decision-making.

How do I succeed in influencing the EU’s legislative process? How do I influence EU political and administrative decisions? When should I talk to whom about what? These are the kinds of questions that this book aims to answer.

Though lobbying is not easy, it can be learned. This EU guide presents the players, the arena and the necessary strategies and techniques to deal with the different EU institutions. It explains the methods and tactics that EU lobbyists can use, and it equips you with the necessary tools for the lobbying process.

In short, this manual on EU-lobbying shows you how to get your voice heard in the increasingly louder environment of EU politics – and how to get your arguments considered in a world of information overflow.

Andreas Geiger
Brussels, 2023

Index

The European Union

Introduction

I. What is Lobbying?

II. Who is Lobbied?

1. European Parliament
1.1 Legislation
1.2 Supervision
1.3 Budget
2. European Council
3. Council of the European Union
3.1 Legislation
3.2 Coordination
3.3 Third countries, outer and inner security
3.4 Budget
4. European Commission
4.1 Legislation
4.2 Administration
4.3 Representation
4.4 Budget
5. Court of Justice of the European Union
5.1 The preliminary ruling procedure
5.2 Actions for failure to fulfill an obligation
5.3 Actions for annulment
5.4 Actions for failure to act
6. European Central Bank
7. European Court of Auditors
8. The Member States’ Governments and Parliaments
8.1 Member States in the Council
8.2 Member States implementing EU law
9. EU Agencies
9.1 Decentralized EU Agencies
9.2 Executive Agencies
9.3 Joint Undertakings

III. How to Lobby?

1. Legal Framework
1.1 EU Institutions and Transparency
1.2 Transparency Register Implementing Guidelines 2020
1.3 Code of Conduct
2. Legislative Procedures
2.1 Legislative Acts
2.1.1 Ordinary legislative procedure
2.2 Non-Legislative Acts
2.2.1 Procedure for delegated acts
2.2.2 Procedure for implementing measures (Comitology)
3. Lobbying Action
3.1 The European Commission
3.2 Legislative Lobbying
3.3 Administrative Lobbying
3.4 The European Parliament
3.5 The Council of the European Union
3.6 The Member States’ governments and parliaments
4. Lobbying Tools
4.1 Monitoring
4.2 Identification and Analysis
4.3 Coalition Building
4.4 Communication
4.5 Paperwork
4.5.1 Policy papers
4.5.2 Alternative draft laws
4.6 Meetings
4.7 Wining and dining
4.8 Media
5. Grassroots

IV. Lobbying Experiences

1. The European Commission
2. The European Parliament
3. The Council of the European Union
4. EU Member State Governments
5. Companies
6. Associations
7. NGOs

V. Lobbying Lexicon
VI. Subject Index
VII. Index of People
VIII. References
IX. About the Author

 


I. What is Lobbying?

Lobbying can be defined as the professional practice of advocating private and public interests in front of legislators and decision-makers. Its main goal is to exert influence on the governing bodies.

The days when people in Europe thought of lobbying as something informal and somehow “dodgy”, something that is practiced in a twilight zone and often enough involves bribery and other criminal acts, are well behind us. Lobbyists have become well-accepted stakeholders in the political decision-making process of the EU since lobbying is an essential part of democracy. Why is that so? Looking at the size of the EU and the number of tasks the administration in Brussels has to deal with, the number of civil servants doing the job is relatively small. There is hardly a chance for an EU-official or EU-parliamentarian to have detailed knowledge about all market implications a potential EU policy is going to have, so external input is a sheer necessity.

But in fact, the idea of lobbying is not new. The Greeks knew it, and so did the Romans. The term “lobbying” in fact descends from the Latin word “lobia”, meaning the galleries and halls of the Roman Senate where the exchange of political information took place. With regard to modern democracies, lobbying was born in the US as an extension of the rights deriving from the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Some say it even dates back to the days of President Abraham Lincoln, when business stakeholders tried to influence Members of Congress in the lobby of the US Congress building. Others refer back to the time of the administration of President Ulysses S. Grant, who served as President between 1869 and 1877. Not allowed to smoke in the White House by his wife, Grant enjoyed his cigars in the lobby of the nearby Willard Hotel. Having been spotted there often, politicians and others wanting political favors began to frequent him during this time of repose, while he was in high spirits. Since then, lobbying in Washington D.C. – usually being referred to as “K Street” – consistently grew as a political factor. As long ago as 1913, President Woodrow Wilson was complaining that Washington D.C. was “swarming with lobbyists (…) you can’t throw a brick in any direction without hitting one”.

The process of lobbying in Brussels began to develop in the late 1970s. Until then, the word “lobbying” in Europe was solely used with regard to diplomatic activities at the highest levels. There were few lobbyists involved in the legislative processes and except for some business alliances and federations, representative offices were barely used[1]. The event that promoted the expansion of lobbying activities was the first direct election of the European Parliament in 1979. Up until then, the European Parliament consisted of members delegated from the national parliaments. Through that change, EU decision-making became more complex, and companies became more and more aware of the necessity of constant political representation through a local expert presence in Brussels. By these means, the evolvement of lobbying was based on the need to provide information to the different political actors within the Member States at home as well as the need to influence the process of law-making actively and effectively[2].

The next cornerstone in the history of European lobbying was the Single European Act of 1986, since it implemented the qualified majority vote for taking decisions in the Council and strengthened the role of the European Parliament[3]. As a consequence, lobbying became even more important and attractive for stakeholders. In short, the stronger the EU evolved from a Member State-organization to an individual, global political player, the more policy areas it covered, the more important it became as a lobbying target. Surely, the EU enlargements in 2004 and 2007 towards Eastern Europe accelerated this development. This, because Eastern European Member States had a huge demand on information from Brussels and the desire to communicate their interests to political decision-makers on the EU level[4].

The most significant changes in EU policy were brought about following the ratification and entrance into force of the Lisbon Treaty. After long and diverse discussions and failed attempts to get the treaty ratified within the Member States, it came into force on 1 December 2009[5]. Its changes paved the way for more participatory democracy and transparency in the European Union’s decision-making. The Union has never been more attractive as a lobbying target than today. It has become more important, more powerful, and is allowing more space for outside influence to shape EU policy.

While this process, including the latest lobbying scandals in the US and in some EU Member States, have led the EU to push for stricter and more formalized lobbying rules[6], the EU institutions have expressively acknowledged the function of and the need for lobbying the EU. In its policy papers on more transparency in the EU, the European Commission stated as follows[7]:

[1] Harris/Fleisher, The Handbook of Public Affairs, p. 51

[2] Harris/Fleisher, The Handbook of Public Affairs, p. 51

[3] Roney, The EU Fact Book, p. 14

[4] Please refer in this regard to the article of MEP Binev in Chapter IV

[5] For an overview, please refer to Piris, The Lisboa Treaty, p. 7

[6] See chapter “How to lobby”

[7] Lynggaard et al., Legitimate Lobbying in the EU, p.4; see also the Green Paper on European Transparency Initiative

 

 


V. Lobbying Lexicon

Accreditation: the process of formally registering as a lobbyist with the EU institutions

Badge: access pass to the EU institutions

Code of conduct: a set of rules to guide behavior with regard to the EU institutions.

Comitology: it refers to the committee system, which oversees the acts implemented by the Commission. The committees, which are forums for discussion, are made up of representatives from Member States and are chaired by the Commission. They ensure that the Commission is able to establish a dialogue with national administrations before implementing measures. The Commission ensures that they reflect, as far as possible, the situation in each country in question.

Coreper: the Member States’ permanent representatives meet weekly within the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper). The role of this committee is to prepare the work of the Council, with the exception of most agricultural issues, which are handled by the Special Committee on Agriculture. A number of working groups, made up of officials from the national administrations, assists Coreper.

Decision: an instrument by which the EU institutions give a ruling on a particular matter. By means of a decision, the institutions can require a Member State or a citizen of the EU to take or refrain from taking a particular action or confer rights or impose obligations on a Member State or a citizen. A decision is an individual measure, and the persons to whom it is addressed must be specified individually, which distinguishes a decision from a regulation.

Directive: an EU directive is a frame law, addressed to the Member States. Its main purpose is to align national legislation. A directive is binding on the Member States as to the result to be achieved but leaves them the choice of the form and method they adopt to realize the objectives within the framework of their internal legal order. If a directive has not been transposed into national legislation in a Member State, if it has been transposed incompletely or if there is a delay in transposing it, citizens can directly invoke the directive in question before the national courts.

EU: the European Union is a supranational union of democratic Member States from the European continent. The European Union was established under that name in 1992 by the Treaty on European Union (the Maastricht Treaty). However, many aspects of the Union existed before that date through a series of predecessor relationships, dating back to 1951. The Union nowadays has a common single market consisting of a customs union, a single currency managed by the European Central Bank (so far adopted by 20 of the 27 Member States), a Common Agricultural Policy, a common trade policy, and a Common Fisheries Policy. A Common Foreign and Security Policy was also established as the second of the three pillars of the European Union. The Schengen Agreement abolished passport control, and customs checks were also abolished at many of the EU’s internal borders, creating a single space of mobility for EU citizens to live, travel, work and invest.

Government Relations: another word for lobbying describing a management discipline at the interface of politics, economy and society. It has both elements of legal counsel and PR, though being a discipline of its own. It is about relationships with governments and parliaments, therefore the name “government relations”.

Grassroots: a political movement for individual constituents of a community to voice their ideas and opinions. The movement allows citizens to organize through a bottom-up approach with voters demanding change, rather than existing political leaders directing the process in a top-down fashion.

Lobbying: the professional practice of public affairs or government relations advocacy, with the goal of influencing a governing body by promoting a point of view.

Lobbyist: a person who professionally influences legislation as well as public opinion. Many major corporations, associations, NGOs and other political interest groups hire professional lobbyists to promote their interests as intermediaries. Others maintain in-house government relations or public affairs departments. Think tanks aim to lobby through regular releases of detailed reports and supporting research to the media for dissemination.

Monitoring: method for obtaining political intelligence with regard to EU legislation by going through agendas, press, communications etc. to find what is relevant for your purposes.

NGO: a non-governmental organization is a non-profit group or association that acts outside of institutionalized political structures and pursues matters of interest to its members by lobbying persuasion, or direct action. The term is generally restricted to social, cultural, legal, and environmental advocacy groups having goals that are primarily non-commercial. NGOs usually gain at least a portion of their funding from private sources.

Permanent Representation: each Member State has a Permanent Representation in Brussels that represents it and defends its national interest at EU level. The head of each representation is the country’s ambassador to the EU. These ambassadors (“permanent representatives”) meet weekly within the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper).

Public affairs: a catch-all term that includes public policy as well as public administration, both of which are closely related to and draw upon the fields of political science as well as economics. Usually used as a synonym for lobbying.

Public policy: a course of action or inaction chosen by public authorities to address a problem. Public policy is expressed in the body of laws, regulations, decisions and actions of government.

Regulation: an EU regulation is in fact a law, i.e., a general measure that is binding in all its parts. Unlike directives, which are addressed to the Member States, and decisions, which are for specified recipients, regulations are addressed to everyone. A regulation is directly applicable, which means that it creates law which takes immediate effect in all the Member States in the same way as a national law, without any further action on the part of the national authorities.

Stakeholder: person or organization that has a legitimate interest in a project or entity. In discussing the decision-making process for institutions – including large business corporations, government agencies and non-profit organizations – the concept has been broadened to include everyone with an interest (or “stake”) in what the entity does.

Think Tank: a research institute, other organization or informal group providing advice and ideas on any aspect of future planning and strategy – for example issues of policy, commerce, and military interest, often associated with military laboratories, corporations, academia, or other institutions. Usually, this term refers specifically to organizations, which support multidisciplinary theorists, and intellectuals who endeavor to produce analysis or policy recommendations.

Trialogue: an informal, tripartite meeting between the Parliament, the Council and the Commission after the Second Reading in the co-decision legislative procedure.

Workshop: a gathering or training session, which may be several days in length. It emphasizes problem-solving, hands-on training, and requires the involvement of the participants.