October 6, 2015
Brussels is not only the capital of Belgium, but also the capital of Europe. In fact, in an area of a few square kilometres, the Belgian city gathers the headquarters of the main European institutions and dozens of other EU entities.
Why is establishing a base in Brussels so important?
In the past years, Brussels has become home to one of the highest concentrations of political power in the world. European legislation nowadays has strong impact on the laws that are made in every Member State of the EU. That is why Brussels has been experiencing the establishment of thousands of lobbying offices. This is the place to be if you want to influence the European decision-making process, which can at times be a long and tortuous process.
Brussels is currently the second city in number of active lobbyists in the world, after Washington DC. The latest estimates are between 15,000 and 30,000 active lobbyists representing corporate companies, industry, agriculture and many other sectors. To have an effective impact and to let your voice be heard, it is better to work close to the EU institutions and policy makers.
How does lobbying work in practice?
Lobbyists are the indispensable bridge linking a sector of the society (industry, trade and many others) with the policy makers. The lobbyist provides technical expertise to the EU regulators in particular domains in which they may not be experts. One of the most common ways of providing such input is by drafting position and priority papers on the relevant dossiers for the represented sector.
Once these recommendations are developed, a point of access to EU policy makers has to be found in order to make the message pass through. First of all, an effective lobbyist builds a strong network, both with policy makers and with all the other relevant stakeholders. The use of media and social media channels is definitely a plus value for an effective lobbying strategy, as it will increase the visibility of the association and, as a consequence, its power of representativeness.
Another key element for a successful lobbying strategy is having excellent sources of information. Monitoring the legislative processes, the agendas and the discussions of the EU legislators is therefore essential. Nevertheless, some institutions and practices are less transparent or not transparent at all, as many important dossiers are often prepared at working group or expert policy level. Once more, the fact of having a good network within the institutions represents an asset, because it will allow you to be not only reactive but also proactive. Trying to anticipate the future legislative actions of the European policy makers is another key element for a successful lobbying strategy.