Daniel Gueguen

When it comes to summer holidays, time passes differently for students and lobbyists. While schoolchildren tend to find the break too short, European lobbyists tend to find it too long. For observers, this year had the feeling not of a bridge over August but a viaduct (or in my view, an abyss) with a sluggish EU agenda from the end of June through to mid-September (at best).

This long period of inactivity, caused by a slowdown in the EU Institutions, should be an opportunity for European players to update their knowledge, the system having become more and more complex with the general use of trilogues, the multitude of delegated and implementing acts, and the countless exceptions and derogations to the post-Lisbon decision-making procedures. Even communication has to become more personalised and less complicated. Most position papers are too technical and nobody reads them, as Aaron Mc Loughlin, CEFIC’s number 2, recently wrote.

However, we instead see the opposite, with a number of worrying signs. The only books about the European Union that generally get sold anymore are manuals for preparing civil service entrance exams. My own books on the EU labyrinth, comitology and lobbying techniques are selling ten times less than they were ten years ago. Ditto for trainings. Not so long ago, the European Training Institute, which has now disappeared, trained between 1,500 and 2,000 lobbyists a year. Today, the market is limited to a few training sessions, most of them short and for prices that have halved over the past decade!

All of this does not send a good signal, because success in lobbying requires three conditions, two of which correspond to new demands: first of all, master your technical file – this is nothing new. But now there is also the need to understand the decision-making process for each file (because each file has its own institutional context) and to communicate more concretely, more actively and more personally. It requires moving from meticulously-drafted technical position papers to a kind of storytelling that is more demanding in terms of time and creativity, but has greater impact.

In short, it is vital for every professional to adapt his or her skills to this new environment. Read, learn and train. The more complicated the system is, the more you have to understand it in order to exploit all possible margins of influence. In other words, mastering the complexity will allow you to simplify it to your own advantage.

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