Lobbying in Brussels: why and how?

Brussels is not only the capital of Belgium, but also the heart of European democracy and lobbying. In fact, in an area of a few square kilometers, the Belgian city gathers the headquarters of the main EU institutions and dozens of other EU entities.

In recent years, the inherently global dimension of challenges such as climate change, digitalization or global health pandemics, requires an approach that goes beyond national borders. Consequently, political powers and competences are shifting from Member States towards the EU institutions. With legislation ranging from artificial intelligence to trade policy and energy taxation being proposed, discussed and approved in the EU institutions, the business operations and day-to-day activities of millions of European citizens and companies are increasingly turning around Brussels.

The EU powers have a strong impact on the laws and policies that determine business operations in a wide variety of sectors. That is why having a presence in Brussels is of growing importance in order to make sure your voice is heard when drafting future legislation. In this blog post, Publyon outlines three key recommendations for effectively developing a successful lobby in Brussels.

How to lobby in Brussels: key recommendations

1. Matching your message with the EU narrative

Lobbying is the indispensable bridge linking a sector of the economy (industry, trade and many others) with EU stakeholders in Brussels. A good lobbyist provides technical expertise to EU legislators and regulators to demonstrate the impact of an anticipated legislative proposal, or provide arguments, facts & figures that can better match the legislative act with the specific industry interests. One of the best ways to achieve this goal is to submit positions to public consultations or set up meetings with EU stakeholders, but finding the loopholes in the EU procedures is essential to make sure you get your message across at the right time. In addition, a carefully crafted storyline and set of policy messages that match the EU narrative will make a difference.

Publyon has built up an extensive experience in designing storylines, crafting policy messages, that align with the EU public policy discourse, and helping its clients assert their position in the EU legislative process. Our international team constantly monitors political changes and advises a broad range of clients, from transport to sustainability and digital, in order to identify threats and opportunities in the draft EU legislation.

2. Building a network to access policymakers

Once the storyline and messages are developed, a point of access to EU policymakers has to be found in order to pass the message through. First of all, an effective lobby starts from a strong network in Brussels, both with policymakers, legislators and industry partners. Publyon is expertly placed to set up the right connections and pave your way in the ‘EU bubble’.

Conveying your messages to EU stakeholders requires constant attention. For example, the inter-institutional trialogue negotiations are designed to speed-up the decision-making procedure and reconcile the positions of the European Parliament and Council of the EU. Although these informal negotiations are considered to be effective, they lack transparency as the negotiations take place behind closed doors. In these situations, it is of great value to have a strong network that can provide you with the latest intelligence or that will enable you to convey your message during crunch time.

Publyon excels an outstanding network of policymakers and their offices, corporations and trade associations who acknowledge our expertise and are willing to provide us with behind-the-scenes intelligence. The mutual trust within our established network allows us to draw knowledge from different sources, enabling us to access the key players during the different phases of EU procedures.

3. Building coalitions

Another key element for a successful lobbying strategy in Brussels is having effective collaboration frameworks in place. Today, the Belgian capital crawls with associations, industry representatives and institutions that voice different needs and put forward various interests. A way to capitalize on this maze is to build coalitions and cooperate with other stakeholders on issues of common interest. Issue-driven policy actions often exert a higher leverage on policymakers and regulators due to the wide support they have on their back. Over the last years, Publyon has built up a track record in surfing through the plethora of interest representatives and establishing the right coalitions.

EU institutions are keen on engaging with sector representatives and joint consortia that voice a single position stemming from different sector segments. If you want to successfully lobby on a legislative text in Brussels, you must be aware of which association/representative you can reach out to and what collaboration you can set up. Moreover, a constant contact with the constellation of networks will keep your organization be visible and up to speed with potential coalitions forming in Brussels.

Lobbying in Brussels made easy with the help of Publyon Academy

Being proactive, timely and aware of what is needed to effectively influence policymaking is the key output of Publyon’s training modules, which are embedded in the Publyon Academy and aimed at empowering participants, spanning from local authorities to in-house and institutional representatives, with the right tools to carry out successful lobbying activities and advocacy strategies at EU and national level. Get in touch if you would like to know what we can do for your organization.

Would you like to influence EU legislation, attract EU funding, establish a network of key policymakers, or simply stay informed about the latest developments in your industry? Feel free to reach out and discuss opportunities over a (virtual) coffee.