Who acts as an interest mediator at a European level?
By Julia Mayer / 30.07.2019
EU-Lobbying in Europe depends on a variety of factors and is influenced by different interest representatives. Therefore it is important to recognise and to correctly categorize the desirable effects of lobbying connected with theoretical questions about democracy. In fact, only from the distinction between democratically positive interest representatives and individual interests can arise an articulation that takes into adequate consideration the interests of European citizens as well.
However, before taking a closer look at the types of interest groups present in Europe, there is the question about the function of lobbyists and their needs in the decision process.
The main function of lobbyists is the observation and analysis of political decisions, on this basis the next steps to be taken are discussed. The analysis of the political events is followed by strategy development and the use of measures in order to accompany and to comment on the ongoing developments. The first step consists in the collection of general information on a global level. In the second step of the screening this information is filtered and analysed for potential problems. On the basis of these analyses and their results, precise details about the operations and specific information for the decision process are collected. Similarly, the interest representatives get in touch with the decision makers and give them a picture of their own positions and reasons. In this way a variety of opinions are involved in the decision process and are often reflected in the draft legislation. The plurality of opinions, which is the pillar of our democracy, becomes frequently the object of criticism in the lobbying context. This critical consideration of lobbyism often results into a non-transparent decision process. But who affects the decision makers in Bruxelles or at least exerts influence on their decisions?
Essentially, the most visible interest representatives can be divided in three categories. Collective interest representatives act at a national and European level and establish both formal and informal relationships with the decision makers. Individual interests are represented directly through the so called “In-house lobbying”. In addition to these, there are commercial agencies acting as mediators between political and private actors.
The collective representation of interests occurs at a European level mainly through so-called Eurogroups. These are European associations whose focus is on the technical and political aspects with regard to the European legislation. They differ in the structure of their organisation and membership, their services and in particular with regard to their interests. NGOs represent public interests, while the Eurogroup “Wirtschaft” (which means economy) is focused on special industrial interests and the Eurogroup “Kapital” (capital) represents workers.
These kind of interest mediators do not act in a collective way, they are hired by an individual actor. This is often a company that aims at pursuing its own interests in the political process. Having strong connections with national contacts in Bruxelles, in-house lobbyists carry out special monitoring tasks. In contrast to the interest groups, the in-house lobbyists are able to pursue the interests of their clients in a much more targeted way, since they do not have to act as moderators in a collective context and to find a compromise solution. Moreover, they can develop flexible lobbying strategies, always open to change. They act simultaneously as mediators on the one hand for the European issues in their own agency, and on the other as intermediaries and representatives of the agency in front of the decision makers in Bruxelles.
Agencies for public affairs
Under this category we find legal offices and lobbying agencies. Their function is to offer political advice. They play a role as mediator and normally do not carry out active lobbying. By contrast they play an advisory and supporting role. They help with the development of a lobbying strategy and establish useful contacts. The advisers have at their disposal great expertise in the inner workings of the decision process in Bruxelles. As a consequence they offer themselves as start-up support to set up an office and for the strategic planning.
EU-Lobbying is an essential part of political decision making at a European level. Therefore people should neither underestimate nor overestimate the impact of interest mediators, who at least should be taken into account when evaluating a decision.
Sources and other information:
Michalowitz, Irina: Lobbying in der EU, Facultas Verlags- und Buchhandels AG, 2007