May 30, 2018
Over the past 10 years, three ruptures have affected the ability of Brussels lobbyists to influence.
- The first rupture took place in 2010, with the Treaty of Lisbon and related inter-institutional agreements: the creation of delegated acts, remarkably complex procedures for implementing acts, and systematic use of trilogues at first reading. The result was an extremely opaque EU labyrinth, full of exceptions and derogations. The rule of influence consists in mastering this labyrinth, otherwise you are paralysed in EU decision-making (and thus ineffective).
- The second rupture concerns communication. Here as well, everything has changed. First principle: the more complex a file is, the simpler your style of communication. The more you want to make a complex file simple, the time more time you need to devote to it and consider communication (in the sense of ‘to be understood’) as an essential tool. Mastering social media, being able to individualise and personalise messages – this is key. At this level, industry has a major weakness compared to NGOs.
- The third rupture is more recent. Most likely it relates to the disappearance of Commission collegiality and Institutions who are more concerned with their own powers than with ensuring that the legislative process functions harmoniously. More and more, people are asking the question “But who is the boss? Who decides?” The question is important in all three stages of EU decision-making – proposal, adoption and implementation – but even more so in the upstream phases. How do you influence the legislator before the drafting of the legislative/regulatory draft?
The coming together of EPPA and PACT began with an identification and a common understanding of these three ruptures. This quickly crystallised into a common analysis of the consequences for European public affairs.
How can you stay influential if you do not adapt your competences to the decision-making processes, if you do not train your staff and members? How can you have an impact on legislative and regulatory issues if you are still communicating old-style, without mastering social networks, without comprehending the force of images over long speeches? Finally, how can you anticipate action, so that you no longer come to the consultant when it is too late?
At PACT, it was clear we had a weakness in upstream influence, in the ability to approach authorities during their reflections. We were mainly ‘downstream lobbyists’, experts in secondary legislation and comitology. Thanks to the EPPA-PACT merger, we are joining an organisation with which we can operate effectively in every stage of the decision-making process. The alliance also reinforces the possibilities for action in terms of communication, social media and relations with Member States.
EPPA being one of the largest consultancies in Brussels, and PACT smaller but more recognised for its comitology and communication niches, we will now form a single entity built on the same pro-European values, the same independent strategies and the same cultures – academic and intellectual. The latter word might sound pretentious, but it is not, because European public affairs has without a doubt become a highly sophisticated profession.
With all of this in mind, we are re-launching the European Training Institute. The massive changes and upheavals the EU will experience in the coming decade will more than ever require you to be trained – to be an actor, and not a spectator.Daniel Gueguen