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Lobby in Romania vs. Lobby in UE

  • Centre for Advanced Research in Management and Applied Ethics
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T he intermediation and evaluation of societal interests is a core feature of representative democracies. Within that process, the roles of the different actors involved in decision-making must be defined unambigu-ously. On the one hand, actors in parliament and government must keep an eye on the common good and try to balance different, possibly even conflicting interests. Different definitions of both the common good and the rules for balancing conflicting interests are key features of different political formations and ideologies. On the other hand, interest repre-sentatives – commonly referred to as »lobbyists« – formulate interests and mediate between their principals and decision-makers in parliament and government. As the decision-makers in the political arena have to know whose interests they are confronted with, transparency of both lobbying organizations and lobbyists is a must. In a democratic political system, interest organizations play an es-sential role in mediating between policy-makers and society. It is not only a matter of their expertise; the very existence of open and pluralistic dia-logue can enhance the quality of political decision-making. Even more so, this is the case with regard to the European Union (eu), whose insti-tutions have historically sought to narrow the »structural remoteness« 1 at which they supposedly stand from Europe's citizens via organized inter-est groups, conceiving them as a »bridge between state and civil society« 2 and a potential source of political legitimacy. Over the past few decades, the variety of interest representatives in Brussels and the intensity of their activities in relation to eu institutions have increased significantly. According to some estimates, interest repre-sentatives in Brussels numbered about 2,500 organizations with about 1. Greenwood, Justin (2003): Interest Representation in the European Union. Basing-stoke: Palgrave Macmillan: 5. 2. Greenwood, Justin and Clive S. Thomas (1998): »Regulating Lobbying in the Western World,« in: Parliamentary Affairs 51 (4): 487. 2001, 3 not to mention the multitude of organizations that lobby eu institutions without having an office in Brussels. In view of what has been described as an »unprecedented ex-pansion of lobbying in Brussels,« 4 it can be assumed that the number of both individual lobbyists and lobby organizations has risen even more since then, resulting in an »extreme pluralization of organizations and a remarkable richness of forms of interest representation at the European level.« 5 As a consequence, lobby groups arguably exert significant influ-ence on European decision-making processes at all stages of the policy process.
Austria's development in terms of political management and the modernization of the country's interest mediation system is to be characterized by one word: delay. In comparison with other liberal western democracies, the stronghold on the political system by the organizations of the Austrian social partnership that had existed from 1945 limited the development of a modern political consulting industry. The social partnership was described as ‘Austria's shadow government’ by political scientists in the 1980s. Until the late 1990s, a transparent political consulting market, driven by professionalism and competition, was neither encouraged nor wanted – and simply did not exist. When the coalition government of the People's Party and the Freedom Party came into power in 2000, the system was changed fast. Owing to the creation of a disconnect between those two parties in power and the traditional policy making entities, the year 2000 was also the starting point for public affairs and lobbying-consultants in Austria. In 2003, the professional public affairs industry gathered to form the Austrian Lobbying and Public Affairs Council, more a platform of a few like-minded consultants than a trade association. In 2006, the institutions of the social partnership lobbied to have themselves established in the Austrian constitution: since then their mandatory membership as well as their contributing role in political decision making is based on the constitution. In 2011, the whole system came to an abrupt halt, when a series of so-called ‘lobbying-scandals’ sent shockwaves through the political system. Those scandals all have several aspects in common: they all involve politicians and party-affiliated consultants and they all circle around the question of corruption. Quickly afterwards, the Austrian federal government responded by drafting a lobbying regulation and registration law, the first ever to be introduced in Austria. A few months later, the federal government presented its final draft, which included registration in three tiers. For consultancies, the draft called for total transparency. Corporations, non-governmental organizations and associations had weaker requirements for transparency and the institutions of the social partnership were required to register with their name and web-address only. In September 2011, the Austrian Public Affairs Association was founded, representing public affairs professionals from companies, associations, agencies and non-governmental organizations.
Among public affairs techniques lobbying is by far the most mystifying one — at least in Europe. Lobbying comes from the Latin word ‘labium’ and means ‘entrance hall’ or ‘lounge’. Therein the essential meaning can be seen: today political decisions are not made in plenary assemblies but primarily in the pre-political phase of balancing the various interests. Lobbying is to be understood as the ‘diverse intensive activities of social groups, chambers and companies in the political and bureaucratic vestibule’ (Beyme 1980). Modern lobbying on the EU level is an intermediary policy for the support of political decision making — even if some critics refuse to believe it. Lobbying at EU level has become a politically realistic dimension. Even if the mass media still take a very sceptical and negative view of lobbying in Brussels, based on the existing European taboo on influencing politics, an in-depth analysis reveals various lobbies at work in EU institutions. Lobbying today is an essential part of all EU decision areas. This paper describes the functional theory approach of lobbying known as ‘cooperation as confrontation through communication’. For the first time, recipients of lobbying in the EU Commission are demonstrating their acceptance of lobbying efforts. The paper is based on the doctoral thesis ‘The acceptance, relevance and dominance of lobbying the EU Commission’ by Peter Koeppl, University of Vienna (unpublished). Copyright © 2001 Henry Stewart Publications
Green Paper European Transparency Initiative Materialul este disponibil online
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Cui îi este frică de grupurile de interese?
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