The European Union Lobbying System

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1458 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Aug 1, 2022

Words: 1458|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Aug 1, 2022

Table of contents

  1. Lobbying Negative Image
  2. ‘Venue shopping’ in the EU
    Information Value
    Inside and Outside Lobbying
    Big Data Lobbying
    Lobbying Regulation in EU Countries
    Positive Image and Online Globalization
  3. Conclusion

The EU lobbying system is not a recent circumstance. The European citizen (an individual or organization) became an active role in the decision-making process by cause of the Treaty of Lisbon “Any European citizen, any legal entity, be it NGO, S.A. or L.T.D., has the right to petition to the attention of the European Parliament, has easy access to the documents and the decision-making process of the European institutions and has the right to receive a response to the suggestions and referrals it officially makes.

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According to Coen, “at the EU level, it became apparent to the first wave of business lobbyists that those who wish to exert a direct lobbying influence on the European public policy system would have to marshal a greater number of skills than merely monitoring the progress of European directives and presenting occasional positions to the Commission” Interest groups tend to designate resources “between possible lobbying targets” – “be they institutions.

Due to the complexity of the legislative proposals and policy issues, the European institutions are often looking for outside experts because of their rather small number of staff relative to the large amount of policy competencies of the EU.

Lobbying Negative Image

“It always startles people when you say you are a lobbyist. They stare at you with a sort of embarrassed horror as if you’d just made a shocking confession.”

When Burson-Marsteller conducted a survey with 600 participants in 20 European countries about the public view of the lobbyists’ role, they discovered that up to 77% of participants found “business lobbyists acting against the public interest”.

Additionally, 70% believed that lobbyists had a critical (and redundant) influence on the decisions of EU institutions. Interestingly, they also discovered the top three conspicuous issues related to lobbying: “insufficient transparency, prioritizing the interests of the rich and powerful, and manipulation of data/information.”

‘Venue shopping’ in the EU

“The EU as a polity presents an American-style plethora of opportunity structures to which interest groups can go. The creation of the EU has, therefore, created a quite new opportunity for what Baumgartner and Jones term ‘venue shopping’ by national and cross-national interest group actors in Europe (not all of whom, of course, are ‘European’)”.

According to Baumgartner and Jones, political actors are adept at “strategic action by employing a dual strategy”: “On the one hand, they try to control the prevailing image of the policy drawback through the employment of rhetoric, symbols, and policy analysis. On the opposite hand, they try to alter the agenda of the ones participating in the issue by seeking out the most favorable venue for consideration of these issues”.

Although ‘venue shopping’ was developed from a study of nuclear energy politics in the USA by Baumgartner and Jones, its relevance to the EU is quite obvious. “Like the USA, the EU is a system of multiple access points. Thus, venue shopping is now normal in the EU, just as it is in the USA”. Since “each venue or opportunity structure” manifests its own bias, this creates “…incentives for advocates to push issues towards the venue with the greatest receptivity to their own point of view”.

Information Value

Having access to information is considered an important step in ‘successful lobbying' in the EU. “Information plays an important role in shaping an interest group’s organization and behavior, its day-to-day activities, and even the extent to which it can affect decisions in its own favor. At root, information defines how interest groups interact with EU decision-makers. Groups are relative experts on the policy issues most affecting their interests and have considerable technical, specialist, and politically salient information on these topics. EU decision-makers, woefully understaffed and pressed for time, find it helpful, if not necessary, to draw on this information in order to reduce uncertainties about potential policy outcomes.”

The interest groups “supply data to decision-makers in exchange for legitimate access to the policy-making process with the goal of having their voices heard at the EU level and, ultimately, steering the EU policy-making process”.

Inside and Outside Lobbying

Interest groups, on their endeavor of persuasion, have two options: they can either contact policy elites directly (i.e. inside lobbying) or provoke pressure indirectly by appealing to the public (i.e. outside lobbying). Inside lobbying is aimed at policymakers directly and as such is not visible to the public. On the opposite hand, “outside lobbying takes the shape of press releases and conferences, contacts with journalists, public campaigning, social media advertising, or protest events”.

De Bruycker and Beyers also found that outside lobbying results better (than inside lobbying) when “defending a position that gains broad approval in the public sphere”.

However, according to Mahoney, there is a negative relationship between outside strategies and lobbying success. Though Chalmers found that inside and outside lobbying are equally effective in gaining access: “several analysts have concluded that outside lobbying is often conducted by powerful and resourceful actors, as the skillful use of media tactics is demanding in terms of resources.“

Big Data Lobbying

Having access to: a broader audience through outside lobbying; different access points (due to venue shopping); and the need for information (crucial for success) only meant that the internet bubble had to become an important factor in the lobbying world. Interest groups’ access to the right people in the right places at the right time can make a distinct leap forward.

Voltaire said, 'Those who can convince you to believe in absurdities, they have the science to convince you to commit atrocities.' This quote could be considered an important “moral aspect of lobbying”.

Influencing someone’s decisions by using data is an infamous tool not only in marketing but in lobbying as well. Cambridge Analytics' data-driven approach is known to have a huge impact on political elections that can affect thousands of voters. Focusing on specific locations, adapting their political messaging, or planning their rallies based on collected data about the voters are just a few ways how big data can be used in their favor.

The power lies not only in analyzing historic data and meeting people’s interests but further in making predictions on how people will behave in the future and then acting accordingly to influence and lead voters in a certain direction, potentially against the voter’s will. Despite the opportunities, Big Data can provide for lobbyists and politicians, it remains a threat to people’s privacy.

Lobbying Regulation in EU Countries

With Big Data lobbying and the negative image lobbying has acquired over time, national authorities and EU institutions have tried to influence lobbying activities in order to mitigate their abuse.

The regulation has different levels of efficacy in different countries, “there are over 12,000 registered lobby organizations in the EU. Since 2000, solely fifteen countries have adopted specific lobbying laws and/or secondary legislation, while the total number of countries that regulate lobbying remains limited to 20”.

“Although the Transparency Register is soon about to become mandatory, this promise has been delayed several times over the last 3 years.”

Positive Image and Online Globalization

Despite the negativity around it, lobbying is inevitable and very often behind all critical decisions.

When lobbyists designate resources in the early stage of EU agenda-setting, they are likely to produce better policy pay-offs than when they allocate resources later in the policy process. It is crucial to understand that at the beginning of the policy process there “…is a very lonely official with a blank sheet of paper, wondering what to put on it. Lobbying at the very early stage, therefore, offers the greatest opportunity to shape thinking and ultimately to shape policy”.

Furthermore, lobbying is not only about influencing or changing public policy – it is also about mitigating risks. Having said so, an interested organization knows that being familiar with a situation is as equally important as trying to influence its outcome. Consequently, participation is perfectly logical even without policy pay-off results.

Moreover, ‘online globalization’ makes it possible for NGO-type pressure groups to turn small, private issues (from) anywhere in the world into a big issue, “bringing it to the attention of millions worldwide”. According to Brown, globalization and the use of social media create “isomorphic pressure on interest groups to adapt new lobbying tactics...”. Via donations, such “groups can raise money to engage the best specialists to exert huge pressure on entities acting anti-socially or unfairly towards a social group, an individual, or towards animals anywhere in the world”.


‘Interest group’ has acquired a strict definition. However, it ought to be noted that “each level of government, decision-making body, bureaucratic jurisdiction, Parliamentary commission, and each institutional setting harbors its own bias – none reflects perfectly the mix of opinions that may obtain in the broader political system”.

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By strengthening the transparency of the decision-making process and the influence and relations between lobbyists and interest groups, it would be possible to lessen the negative impacts often related to lobbying, “such as corruption, conflict of interests, protection, and clientelism “ as well data privacy.

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Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

The European Union Lobbying System. (2022, August 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 29, 2024, from
“The European Union Lobbying System.” GradesFixer, 01 Aug. 2022,
The European Union Lobbying System. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 May 2024].
The European Union Lobbying System [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Aug 01 [cited 2024 May 29]. Available from:
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