Beate Kohler-Koch, Christine Quittkat
New and Not-So-New Trends in the Representation of Economic Interests in the EU: EUROLOB II Report 2016

Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung: Arbeitspapiere; 165
27 S.
ISSN: 1437-8574

This paper presents results of a comprehensive survey of business interest associations (BIAs) in France, Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom, and at the European level. Comparing the 2015 EUROLOB II data with our survey data of 1999 (EUROLOB I), we investigate whether or not national and European interest representatives modified their strategies of interest intermediation in order to respond to the new competitive situation caused by enlargement, institutional reform, and the Commission’s turn to new modes of governance.
Our data convey a clear message: Advocacy in the context of EU law-making ranks high on the agenda of BIAs. In Brussels, EU associations are the most active BIAs, but national associations are hard on their heels. The strong presence of national associations in European policy-making is a manifestation of the multi-level character of EU advocacy. When national BIAs want to have an impact on EU law-making, they mostly turn to the national government (working level) and they directly reach out to Brussels. They experience EU institutions to be very willing to provide information and the EP to be more cooperative than their home parliament. EU-level BIAs also engage in multi-level venue shopping but are less active in lobbying national institutions.
Regarding the modification of interest intermediation strategies between 1999 and 2015, we find that institutional reforms have had a strong impact: The European Parliament now attracts considerably more attention than before. The national parliaments profited from this upward trend, although at a far lower level. In addition, the business world has intensified its contacts to the political actors, namely to the top level of national governments and of the Commission.
Generally, business associations widely agree that conditions of interest intermediation have changed since the turn of the century (national BIAs: 84.07%, EU level BIAs: 96.23%). Some changes are bother-some, such as the increase in competition between interest groups, and some are delicate, such as the growing relevance of political considerations in the decision-making of EU institutions. Other changes are welcome; above all, access opportunities to the Commission and the EP have improved. Yet, the EU’s turn to participatory governance had a limited effect. The new consultation instruments, such as online consultations, policy forums, platforms, hearings, and conferences, have little attraction. Business actors stick to the proven mix of personal, targeted, and regular contacts or submit position papers. Brussels-based business interest associations are obviously best placed to profit from the participation in committees and expert groups. As in the past, the mobilization of the public and the media is only of secondary importance for business groups.
Other aspects of EU interest representation also remained stable. Like in 1999, activities continue to correlate significantly with a BIA’s budget. To have a delegate on site is even more important. EU-level associations as well as national business associations with an office in Brussels maintain significantly more contacts both to the working level and to the top level of EU institutions than their competitors. In addition, the domestic background is decisive for national business associations. German, French and British BIAs are financially well-off, whereas Polish associations have strikingly low resources. The latter are also more embedded in their domestic environment, taking personal relationship and party membership in high consideration when selecting contact partners. The distinct profiles of national associations which we noticed in our first survey in 1999 are still visible today, and they are most likely to persist – just as the multi-level system of interest representation with a strong presence of national associations.