Remarks on Lobbying
Camelia Nistor, PhD
Lobbying is part of a democratic political life. It can strongly contribute to the development of a more transparent and efficient decision-making process. Therefore, creating constructive relations between decision-makers and different interest groups is essential. Over the last decades, lobbying has become more and more visible – it is a key-component of the EU decision-making arena in democratic societies. As a matter of fact, today, EU lobbying is considerably more structured, institutionalized and regulated than at the beginning of the European construction. Communication plays a tremendous role in the act of lobbying: it is fundamental for the dialogues established between governmental and non-governmental actors when it comes to developing new EU policies to be as clear, relevant and engaging as possible.
An efficient lobbying strategy implies close monitoring of the current and future legislative measures. It is by doing so that interest groups can identify and formulate, in a realistic way, their objectives in relation with decision-makers. Therefore, a complex monitoring exercise must be led by lobbyists both internally and externally – ideally, this should happen as early as possible in the decision-making process. At the EU level, it is necessary that lobbying strategies are adapted depending on the specific EU institution which is being addressed. Different governmental actors from different institutions play different roles in the EU decision-making process – this determines various lobbying methods and techniques being set up by interest groups. It is crucial identifying and analyzing governmental actors that lobbyists (no matter what the sector which they represent would be – for instance, corporate, NGOs, associations, federations, academics, national governments etc) can – or, in different cases, even need to – approach when trying to influence legislative or governmental decisions.
Lobbying is part of the EU decision-making process – it is an institutionalized and legitimate act within a European democratic society. Interest groups organizing lobbying actions towards the EU decision-makers (EU institutions) can have a strong impact on influencing legislative and governmental decisions, according to their interests. Nevertheless, while some interest groups measure an impressive success, others fail, more or less systematically – some lobbyists win, some lobbyists lose when it comes to convincing governmental actors of the validity of the proposed arguments. What determines the success or the failure of a lobbying action led at the EU level? Are lobbying coalitions more efficient than individual lobbying? Is the European lobbying approach more efficient or not necessarily compared to the national one? How much does the quality of the expertise provided by interest groups to decision-makers count? What about the validity of their arguments? Such questions deserve great attention when dealing with the (EU) lobbying arena.
Lobbying appears and develops as an essential component of the relation between decision-makers and interest groups – it is an expression of the citizens’ fundamental right to express and group themselves for achieving common goals. In our context, the goal is influencing legislation by the stakeholders. Today, EU lobbying, which is extremely active, is more and more structured, institutionalized and regulated. Politicians, public officials need legitimacy, expertise, partnerships and coalitions, assistance for implementing public policies, whereas interest groups themselves need access to information about the newly proposed public policies as well as access to decision-makers for providing them with expertise aiming to influence political decisions.
Transparency in the lobbying process remains a delicate and intensely debated issue by both researchers and experts in the field. In a democratic society, it is natural and healthy that political / governmental decisions should be taken not as a pure result of the negotiations between decision makers, but as the result of a constructive dialogue between governmental and non-governmental actors (the last ones consisting of stakeholders who take attitude,
through concrete actions, in the decision-making process). It it important to understand the evolution of this phenomenon at the EU level – from an unregulated lobby to a relatively regulated lobby, afterwards a better regulated one (a more mature, institutionalized manner). Certainly, focus is to be also put on the major initiatives led by the European institutions in this sense, as well as by a number of relevant non-governmental actors. Relevant, constructive decisions and actions are still needed for EU lobbying to be better regulated in the (near) future.