“Lobbying the European Parliament (EP) for the common welfare? In the light of discussions about the introduction of a legislative footprint and increased civic participation, what strategy should the EP adopt towards interest representation and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) as legitimate partners in policy-making?”
The Role of NGOs
These are the main institutions and bodies that make up the European Union but in order for them to work they need the input of citizens. In order to have a better say and influence over EU policy and legislation hundreds of trade unions, business organisations and NGO groups have organised themselves at a European level. By cooperating at an EU level NGOs can supplement the work they do locally and regionally. Many Irish NGOs are now represented in Europe by umbrella groups, some of which have dedicated EU officers and permanent representations in Brussels. European NGO networks represent their members on a European political level by sharing information with one another and lobbying politicians and Commission officials on specific issues. The EU actively engages with NGO networks through informal lobbying and direct consultation. Making good use of the NGO networks can be a powerful campaigning tool for Irish groups.
In a conventional way of approaching the notion of “EU lobbyists,” one can speak of businesses, groups of activists, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), citizens’ groups and so on, representing their interests before the decision-makers in so that EU legislation and policies do not harm them or even is drafted to their benefit.
Besides the European Commission and Parliament's code of conduct for the Transparency Register, lobbying organisations have developed their own professional codes of conduct to regulate their activities. The main criticism of the current situation regarding lobbying is the lack of transparency. Meanwhile lobbying is considered a positive element by EU policy-makers insofar as it ensures the participation of social and economic actors in the policy-making process and provides useful information. Apart from a call for more transparency, in particular through obligatory registration in the joint EP-Commission Transparency Register, stakeholders raise concerns about the issue of the possible "revolving door" as well as the apparent domination of industry interests over other interests in the EU.
A large part of the lobbying literature is devoted to giving advice to persons and organisations wishing to establish a successful temporary or long-term lobbying operation. With a view to the multitude of variables to take into account, they often take the form of rather general advice such as "the more thorough the reflection, the better the chance of success, although there are never any guarantees." In most cases these "how-to" texts could be summarised by saying that you should demonstrate "intelligent and prudent behaviour".21 Indeed, for every specific political arena, lobbyists have to observe and consider the issues at stake, the stakeholders involved, the time dimension and the arena boundaries, and also to reflect on their best management. Van Schendelen, again, summarises this by calling for a lot of "preparatory homework" and "fine-tuned fieldwork". So-called best practices are never permanently fixed, but are dependent on new insights and are thus constantly in development.
Regulation of lobbying is directly linked to the regulation of financial interests. Charges that some MEPs’ assistants could have been paid by interest groups and that some MEPs even could have acted as interest representatives themselves, illustrate this link. A second problem concerns intergroups, formed by MEPs of different political groups possessing a common interest in an issue. There were cases of intergroups representing themselves to the public using official EP symbols, even though they acted on behalf of particular interests....
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