Brussels: the kingdom of lobbies

According to Novethic.

Between 12 and 000. This is the number of professional lobbyists in Brussels. According to the European Business Observatory, 20% of them work for companies against only 000% for national governments. Business lobbying is carried out by four types of structures: the representations specific to each business, business associations, sectoral federations and finally independent lobbying companies. In total, no less than 60 European industrial interest groups are present in Brussels and around 30 multinationals. "We are recognized as official bodies and, to my knowledge, none tries to hide its activities", remarks Marc Devisscher, spokesperson for CEFIC (European Council of Chemical Industry Federations), the most important federation of companies present in Brussels (see interview).

In fact, since the entry into force of the Single Act in 1987, the lobbies have been fully integrated into the Brussels landscape. Their goal: to influence the European institutions - first and foremost the Commission and the Parliament - so that Community legislation serves or at least does not serve their interests. “We follow the work of the Commission, in particular the preparation of directives, and we give our opinion on the texts, relates Carsten Dannöhl of Unice, the European union of employers, Our approach is legitimate. To write good texts, MEPs need the advice of all stakeholders and they often seek advice. "

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Amend guidelines

The activity of the lobbies is divided into two main parts: monitoring and advice. The first requires the lobbyist to keep abreast of current draft directives and to seek relevant information on subjects of interest to his interest group. The second consists of meeting officials, MEPs and more generally European politicians to give them the opinion of the lobby on a particular text and, if necessary, to suggest modifications. "It is not uncommon for pressure groups to even directly submit the amendments they want us to propose", blows a deputy.

To achieve their ends, lobbyists share tasks according to their skills. A distinction is generally made between experts and consultants. The former have technical knowledge and try to participate, as early as possible, in the development of European directives, particularly when drafting the “Green Paper” and “White Paper” (preparatory texts for the directives). Their main contacts are Commission officials. The second are lobbyists in the primary sense of the term. Their main asset is their address book and their perfect knowledge of the workings of the European institutions. On the one hand, they help the experts to come into contact with the key figures when preparing the directives. On the other hand, when the texts pass before Parliament, they approach the most influential politicians to convince them to take better account of the interests of their pressure group.

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It's clear ?

While pressure groups boast of being transparent, some politicians and NGOs refute this argument. The European Business Observatory, a Dutch NGO created in 1997 to monitor the lobbying of multinationals, assures on the contrary that it is very difficult to know to what extent the Commission is influenced and regrets that the European Union has not set up regulations similar to those in the United States that force multinationals to publish information about their lobbying activities. "But anyway, from a democratic point of view, the system of lobbies does not seem to us a good solution, notes Erik Wesselius of the European Observatory of the companies, In the" lobbycracy ", one pays to have influence and this strengthens the bureaucratic side of Europe. It would be better if European issues had more place in the public debate. "

Another argument of the anti-lobbies: the lack of checks and balances. In the face of businesses, NGOs, unions and humanitarian associations do indeed have few resources. According to the European Business Observatory, only 10% of lobbyists work for NGOs in this way. For example, there are only a few hundred in environmental protection organizations. “This imbalance poses a problem, underlines Paul Lannoye, European deputy ecologist, Because companies always finance quantities of studies to justify their point of view and the NGOs cannot do the same. "

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Laurent Fargues
Posted: 23 / 08 / 2004. source

More: pressure groups in transport

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