Since Spain entered the European Union and after the subsequent treaties that have advanced European integration, Brussels has become the main source of regulation for Spanish companies. Depending on the sector in question and the distribution of competences, lobbying in Europe becomes even more necessary than at the national level.

In the European Union, as well as in Spain, lobbies seek to “influence policy making processes” in their institutions. Brussels is the officious seat of the main European institutions: Parliament, Commission and European Council. Other important institutions for the business world such as the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) also have their headquarters there.

In addition to this, the EU countries have a permanent representation in Brussels led by the Ambassador-Permanent Representative of each country before the EU.

In order to correctly exercise lobbying, we must be aware of the European legislative process, which is very different from the Spanish one, and of the different actors that act in each step and the influence that each one of them plays.

In Europe, the business sector is also represented through business confederations, chambers of commerce, sector associations and several companies.

In 2011, the European Commission and the European Parliament launched a transparency register that aims to meet the commitment of transparency in relations with interest groups. At the end of last year, it had almost 12,000 registered (more than double the number in 2012), distributed among 6 large groups:

Of the total number of registrations, Spain is in 6th position after Belgium for the headquarters effect, Germany, France, United Kingdom (the report was made before the Brexit was effective) and Italy.

The inscription in the register gives access to a number of advantages, both in Parliament and in the Commission. These include:

  • Long-term access to Parliament
  • Speaking at public hearings
  • Subscription to notifications on legislative activities
  • Meetings with members of the Commission, Cabinets and Director-Generals
  • Joining a group of experts

The transparency register has proved to be a successful example that has been replicated by other institutions both nationally and regionally.

In conclusion, the way in which lobbying is done and the principles governing the behaviour of institutional relations professionals at the European level do not differ much. However, we must be aware that most of the laws that currently affect us come from the European Union and we must also be aware of how we can influence them. In order to do this, we need to know the institutional framework and the legislative process.