Chapter 6 Interests and interest mediation

Summary

  • According to estimates some 15,000 lobbyists and more than 3,500 interest groups are active in Brussels.
  • The vast majority of these groups represent business interests. This can be explained by the fact that business groups typically represent specific interests while NGOs represent diffuse interests.
  • Interest groups can use different channels to lobby the EU: they can lobby themselves, hire or consultant, or lobby through national or European federations. In addition, they groups can lobby the EU institutions or target national governments.
  • Interest representation in the EU is more pluralist than corporatist in nature, although pockets of corporatism can be found in social policy and the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy.
  • The European Commission has actively sought to support the creation and activities of EU interest groups, in an attempt to integrate them into the EU policy-making process. For the Commission, this has been a way to achieve a more balanced representation of interests but also to create an EU-level constituency that it can engage in its initiatives.
  • Interest groups can use two types of strategies: inside lobbying and outside lobbying. When groups rely on inside lobbying, they try to influence policy-making from within, by becoming a part of deliberations on policies. When groups use outside lobbying, they try to put pressure on policy-makers from the outside, by staging public protests and involving the media.
  • Interest groups may use combinations of these two strategies, but often they rely more on one or the other.
  • In the EU, inside lobbying is much more prevalent than outside lobbying, because EU policy-makers are less vulnerable to public opinion, because protests at a European scale are difficult to organize, and because the types of issues the EU deals with are more remote from citizens’ daily lives.
  • The impact of interest groups depends on three things: characteristics of the interest groups themselves, characteristics of the political system they operate in, and characteristics of the issue they are active on.
  • The most important interest group characteristics that affect their impact in the EU are expertise and political support.
  • Because campaign financing is less important in the EU than in the US, money plays a smaller role for interest groups in the EU than in the US.
  • The EU’s multi-level character offers opportunities for interest groups to circumvent governments but also for governments to withstand interest group demands.
  • Interest groups are most effective when an issue is confined to a limited set of participants and stakeholders.
  • Whether or not lobbying helps or is a threat to democracy depends on the balance between interest groups and the way in which lobbying takes place..
© 2011 Herman Lelieveldt and Sebastiaan Princen  & Cambridge University Press
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