Since Spain entered the European Union and as a result of 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 competencies, lobbying in Europe becomes even more necessary than at the national level.
In the European Union, as in Spain, lobbies seek to “influence the policy-making processes” in their institutions. Brussels is the official headquarters of the main European institutions: Parliament, Commission and the European Council. Other important institutions for the business world such as the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) are also based there.
In addition to this, the EU countries have a permanent representation in Brussels led by the Ambassador-Permanent Representative of each country which is part of the EU.
In order to lobby properly, 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 as well as the influence exerted by each one of them.
In Europe, the business sector is also represented through business confederations, Chambers of Commerces, sectoral associations and several companies.
In 2011, the European Commission and the European Parliament launched a transparency register that aims to fulfill the commitment to transparency in lobbying and stakeholder relations. At the end of last year, it had almost 12,000 registrants (more than double the number in 2012), distributed among 6 major groups:
Of the total number of registrants, Spain ranks 6th after Belgium, due to the headquarters effect. The top four countries in terms of registrants are Germany, France, United Kingdom (the report was made before the Brexit was effective) and Italy.
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.
Registration in the registery gives access to a number of advantages, both in the Parliament and Commission. Among others these include:
- Long-term access to Parliament
- Ability to speak at public hearings
- Subscription to notifications on legislative activities
- Meetings with members of the Commission, Cabinets and Directors-General
- Being appointed to an expert group
The Transparency Register has proven to be a successful example that has been replicated by other national and regional institutions.
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.