Newcomers’ Guide to EU Lobbying
Welcome to Brussels, Europe’s political capital.
For more than 55 years, Brussels has been the place where the European heads of state and government and the ministers of the European Union’s 28 member states, as well as their elected legislators gather to negotiate policies on subjects as diverse as financial transactions, farmland and honeybee health.
Lobbying and public affairs in the EU
Lobbying is broadly understood as government relations. In other words, a lobbyist’s primary target for action is a public official — legislator, regulator or bureaucrat. However, defining lobbying as only an activity conducted by private sector entities towards public bodies is therefore missing the point. According to the Joint Transparency Register, the EU’s lobbying registry, anyone aiming to influence policy is considered a “lobbyist,” though the register does not use this exact term. By that definition, then, NGOs, religious entities, diplomats, local governments and academics may be considered to be “lobbying.”
The European public affairs professional
In a corporate context, virtually no one would define themselves as a “lobbyist” and only a handful would do so even off the record. This is not out of political correctness or any negative connotation that go with the term but rather due to the fact that, in most cases, their job is far broader than just lobbying. It might include any or all of the following:
- Regulatory compliance
- Corporate or strategic communication
- Stakeholder management
- Corporate social responsibility
- Enabling new business opportunities
- Identifying EU funding opportunities
Who are the main public affairs players in Brussels?
There are 15,000 to 20,000 people working “public affairs,” “lobbying” or “interest representation” in 8,000 lobbying organizations in Brussels. These organizations can be broken down into just a few categories:
- Public affairs consultancies
- Law firms
- Professional and trade associations
- Representatives office of regions, capitals and EU member states
- Think tanks
- Corporate officers
Many of the individuals working for these organizations have responsibilities extending beyond Brussels to the whole of Europe, or to all of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).