Lobbying Brussels…

Now when part of the public US is in lock down, maybe you’ll have a bit time left to do some reading and I wanted to speak a bit about one of my pet peevesAmerican corporates lobbying in the European Parliament.

First, maybe some disclosure, I work at the European Parliament with a Member of European Parliament (MEP). And I base this on my own experiences and from speaking with my colleagues in the European Parliament.

I will only try to touch two recurring situations, but for me they show a lack of basic knowledge about how our system works. I am not speaking about how a file pass through the system, but plain and simple – lobbying to get your point of views heard. Maybe not acted on, but certainly heard.

You will be surprised how basic it actually is.

First, do not aggravate the MEP by treating the offices staff nonchalant. What do I mean? We get frequent questions from US organisations and corporates that want to meet with us and if the subject and time is correct, we will. How else can we learn what goes on in the corporate world? However, please be advised, it is notoriously difficult to get a meeting with a MEP not that they are playing difficult to get at but because they have many demands on their time like e.g. voting on legislation.

Instead, you get to meet with us – The Staff. Here in Brussels the staff at a MEP office almost all has a strange official title: Accredited Assistant. However, if you think a glorified coffee maker, think again. We are the ones that read the texts, analyse policy, draft the legislation, advise the MEP, attend the workshops, negotiate the compromises, write the speeches, I could go on but I think you get the gist of it – you want your voice to be heard a good way is to speak with us: The Staff aka Accredited Assistant. Our time might also be more flexible so we can prove easier to  meet with.

However, what happens? A very usual scenario is for an US corporate/organisation to contact us with a proposal to meet. Since they fly in time constraints are obvious and normal. The first mail is invariably full of assurances that their agendas are flexible. When we come back with the answer that we’d be happy to meet only the MEP is busy/away but the person responsible for the file (aka Accredited Assistant) is happy to meet, the agenda previously so flexible is set in stone, chock-a-block full, no minute left.

You know what? Other than that, the initiating organisation looks badly wired into Brussels and very arrogant, the MEPs, i.e. the persons you want to influence, do not like it when their staff is treated like that. This in turn will raise the threshold and stakes for you being heard.

Finally, if you fly in for a short stay, check that the MEPs actually are here before you book your flight. It will significantly raise your chances of meeting them.

Further short reading on the subject: http://www.slideshare.net/saragoldberger/newsfeed

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