Lobbying and Public Affairs in the EU

27 Jan, 2015


Lobbying and Public Affairs in the EU

Updated June 2018

Welcome to Brussels, Europe’s political capital.

For more than 55 years, Brussels has been the place where the European heads of state and government and the ministers of the European Union’s 28 member states, as well as their elected legislators gather to negotiate policies on subjects as diverse as financial transactions, farmland and honeybee health.

Lobbying and public affairs in the EU

Lobbying is broadly understood as government relations. In other words, a lobbyist’s primary target for action is a public official — legislator, regulator or bureaucrat. However, defining lobbying as only an activity conducted by private sector entities towards public bodies is therefore missing the point.

According to the Joint Transparency Register, the EU’s lobbying registry, anyone aiming to influence policy is considered a “lobbyist,” though the register does not use this exact term. By that definition, then, NGOs, religious entities, diplomats, local governments and academics may be considered to be “lobbying.”

The European public affairs professional

In a corporate context, virtually no one would define themselves as a “lobbyist” and only a handful would do so even off the record. This is not out of political correctness or any negative connotation that go with the term but rather due to the fact that, in most cases, their job is far broader than just lobbying. It might include any or all of the following:

  • Regulatory compliance
  • Corporate or strategic communication
  • Stakeholder management
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Enabling new business opportunities
  • Identifying EU funding opportunities

Who are the main public affairs players in Brussels?

There are 15,000 to 20,000 people working in “public affairs,” “lobbying” or “interest representation” in 8,000 lobbying organizations in Brussels. These organizations can be broken down into just a few categories:

  • Public affairs consultancies
  • Law firms
  • Professional and trade associations
  • Representatives office of regions, capitals and EU member states
  • Think tanks
  • NGOs
  • Corporate officers

Many of the individuals working for these organizations have responsibilities extending beyond Brussels to the whole of Europe, or to all of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

How many ministers, members of Parliament and other officials are working in the 28-member EU today? And how many corporations, associations, NGOs and other groups are clamoring for their attention?

Here are a few facts and figures that bring EU public affairs into sharper focus. For more data and insights on EU lobbying, click on the infographic below.

  • The number of people lobbying in the EU is great — and growing. As of December 31, 2017, over 11,600 had signed on to the EU’s Joint Transparency Register, and almost half of those registrants (5,747) are corporations or associations. Approximately one-quarter (3,047) are nongovernmental organizations. By comparison, at the end of 2013, there were around 6,400 JTR registrants.
  • The EU has thousands of officials across various institutions.As of June, 2018, there are 751 members of the European Parliament from seven different political groups. And they’re supported by approximately 6,000 staffers. In addition, there are over 5,400 staffers working for EU agencies.
  • The regulatory process is much faster than the legislative process.On average, 81 legislative rules are enacted each year, and each proposal takes an average of two years to become law. Meanwhile, over 20 times more regulatory rules (1,647) are adopted annually, and the process takes an average of just four months.

To learn more about EU public affairs, contact András Baneth, managing director of the Council’s European office, or visit pac.org/europe.