FOCUS: EUROLOBBYING - The new wave of EU policy makers. EU policies should see a dramatic change of focus next year as Germany assumes the presidency with new Chancellor Gerhard Schroder at the helm. Nick Purdom reports

When European governments change, it isn’t just the voters in their own countries that watch the new boys with interest. Change ripples through the whole EU as some policies get knocked off-course and others, previously unthought of, suddenly go to the top of the agenda.

When European governments change, it isn’t just the voters in their

own countries that watch the new boys with interest. Change ripples

through the whole EU as some policies get knocked off-course and others,

previously unthought of, suddenly go to the top of the agenda.



Few elections can have created as great an impact as September’s defeat

of Chancellor Kohl in Germany. Lobbyists are waiting with bated breath

to see what the victory of the SPD and its coalition with the Green

party will mean in the European context.



On 1 January 1999, Germany takes over the EU presidency. It does so with

its first left-of-centre government after 16 years of conservatism. Eric

Merkel-Sobotta, associate director at APCP Europe, says: ’Everyone in

Brussels is waiting to see if it will try to tackle some of the really

meaty topics.’



New Chancellor Gerhard Schroder faces a host of pressing concerns at

home, with high unemployment and pressures for social and fiscal

reform.



’Schroder might not focus all his energies on Europe, like Kohl whose

showcase was Europe,’ Merkel-Sobotta suggests.



This change of focus will have both immediate and long-term effects on

the Union. Germany has traditionally has been the paymaster of Europe,

funding many development projects, but the days of the ’soft touch’ are

definitely over.



’We’re telling clients Germany will probably behave in a more assertive

manner,’ says Peter Verhille, managing director of Entente International

Communication. ’It seems likely that it is going to bargain very hard,

if not to reduce its contributions, then at least to ensure they don’t

increase out of proportion.’



Other member states could well face having to increase their own

contributions.



The problem becomes even more complicated because a number of poorer

countries, such as Poland, Estonia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and

Slovenia, are set to join the EU in the next few years and may have more

of a claim to funds than existing members. Elaine Cruikshanks, managing

director of Hill and Knowlton Brussels, says: ’Every region in the

community is now lobbying for funding before enlargement hits.’



Germany is keen on enlargement, not least because it is geographically

closer to those Central and Eastern European countries and no longer

wants to shoulder so much responsibility for them.



And expansion raises another issue: weighted voting. Verhille says: ’I

think Schroder will push hard to increase Germany’s voting power in the

Council of Ministers which is where the real decisions are made.’



The shifting balance of power may well put a strain on the traditional

Franco-German alliance in the EU, and create new international

bonds.



’There’s a lot of speculation in the media about the role of the UK and

whether it can join in the Bonn-Paris axis,’ says Verhille. ’Schroder

went to Paris immediately after his election victory. But we have the

feeling he is quite a strong Anglophile and that he is aiming to enlarge

Germany’s comfortable relationship with France to include London.’



Certainly Schroder appears politically to be closer to Tony Blair than

to Lionel Jospin. And it was New Labour that gave advice on Schroder’s

election campaign. The UK appears to have the chance to play an

important role in the EU following what most commentators feel was a

disappointing presidency earlier this year.



But the UK has still not signed up for the euro and France will

doubtless use that fact to dissuade Germany from forming too close an

alliance.



’The fact that Schroder is instinctively closer to Blair than Jospin in

many ways makes life more complicated for those who are trying to

discern what will come out of the EU because there are three cooks

rather than two,’ comments Verhille.



In fact, it is even more complicated than that. Lobbyists do not know

yet just how much influence Schroder’s coalition partners will have in

Germany, and therefore in Europe. Green leader Joschka Fischer is

predicted to become the new Foreign Minister. But insiders expect SPD

chairman Oskar Lafontaine to strip EU affairs out first and take them

into his own portfolio as Finance Minister, thus limiting the Green

party influence.



The Green party is expected to fill the post of Environment Ministry,

however, which is causing a lot of nervousness in industry. Benjamin Gil

is an independent consultant in Brussels with a range of private and

government clients in Germany. He says: ’The Greens are very

influential. They have never really been in national office in any

country and they have all kinds of ideas that we consider extreme, such

as wanting to triple the price of petrol. I don’t know how prepared they

will be to compromise.’



An early indication of their influence came in mid-October when the new

German government announced the phasing out of nuclear power. Both

coalition partners are in favour of environmental fiscal reform.



The Greens want to increase energy costs and decrease social

contributions in order to create more jobs and are prepared to place

this reform within an EU policy framework.



Sylvain Lhote, a consultant at GPC in Brussels, expects to see transport

policy affected. ’It’s quite likely that the position of Germany on

energy and fuel tax, which in the past has been quite moderate, will

change,’ he says. Verhille agrees: ’We anticipate a coalition in the

Council between Germany and the Nordic countries to push the green

agenda, which could lead to the introduction of energy taxes.’



Germany also wants to promote solar energy and Lhote predicts new

research and development programmes at the European level. The chemical

industry could also feel the impact of the Green agenda since there is

already a review of EU chemical policy underway.



’One of the key principles of the new German coalition is the

precautionary principle, which means that even if there is no clear

scientific evidence that a substance poses a risk it could be banned,’

says Lhote. And if the cons start to outnumber the pros, that may

restrict innovation and the ability of companies to do business.



Another industry that may suffer is hi-tech. The fear is that, because

Europe lags behind in new developments, it is effectively missing the

boat. Many say Europe does not have a risk culture, unlike the US, and

that it suffers from a skills gap.



’There is a danger that protectionism builds up and that this, coupled

with Germany’s natural tendency to regulate rather than leave the market

to sort itself out, will hamper growth,’ says Cruikshanks.



There are only a few months left before Germany takes over the EU

presidency.



And, with European Parliament elections looming later in the year, most

lobbyists in Brussels are advising a cautious approach. ’Policy agendas

are set for any presidency before it arrives in office,’ explains Steve

Rankin, managing director of European Strategy. ’All it can really do is

try to ensure that policies that need an extra push receive that.’



’We don’t see any major differences on the big subjects like EMU and the

euro or foreign policy. But the influence of Germany as a result of the

recent elections is going to extend over many years and on the

environmental side that will certainly see a greener push coming,’

concludes Rankin.



TACTICS: US-STYLE LOBBYING COMES TO EUROPE



Brussels may be halfway round the world from Washington DCbut US-style

lobbying practices are creeping across the Atlantic. One area where this

new influence is already quite marked is in the increased use of the

media to support lobbying campaigns.



Independent consultant Benjamin Gil says lobbyists from anglo-saxon

member states are most likely to adopt this tactic - concentrating their

efforts on their home media. ’You want the pressure to come from the

media at home, not Brussels,’ he says.



Brussels has the largest press corps in the world and the way you deal

with it is very important. Any company or interest group that fails to

develop good relationships risks becoming marginalised.



Steve Rankin, managing director of European Strategy, explains: ’The

willingness and need to use the media has arisen because NGOs, like

Greenpeace, use the media a great deal.’ He says the media played a big

part in the successful campaign European Strategy conducted for the Toy

Industry of Europe against Greenpeace on the use of phthalates in PVC

toys.



Advocacy advertising, although nowhere near as widely used yet as in the

US, is also starting to be adopted in Europe. Another US tactic

increasingly deployed in Europe is grass-roots campaigning.

Organisations are encouraging employees, suppliers, clients and other

interested parties to express their support. Elaine Cruikshanks,

managing director of Hill and Knowlton Brussels, says she has seen this

taking various forms. ’Companies are using techniques like reply coupons

to gain support,’ she says.



Tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris has used this method to get the

support of smokers. Other companies asked their employees to write to

their MEP on issues. And petitioning by organisations like Amnesty is

another example of this technique.



Some of the most sophisticated practitioners in the market are US

companies trying to build their European presence, so it is hardly

surprising that they are bringing their lobbying style with them.



’Building public affairs and lobbying strategies around the core values

that are the company is coming across to Europe,’ says Cruikshanks.

However, she does sound a gentle warning: ’Brussels is still very

different to Washington and it is dangerous to transfer practices

wholesale.’



COPYRIGHT: BEATING OFF THE THREAT OF WIDESPREAD PIRACY



One of the most hotly lobbied topics in Europe at present is the future

of copyright in the information society. In early October, the chairman

of the European Union Legal Affairs Committee tabled a proposed

directive on the issue. Within two weeks, more than 250 amendments had

been submitted.



Two main interests are fuelling the debate about copyright. On the one

hand are the rights holders - publishers, film and record companies.

They claim that the advent of digital technology turns consumers into

pirates with the ability to make perfect, long-lasting recordings.

Opposing them are the consumer electronics manufacturers, determined to

defend their right to manufacture and sell recording equipment in the

future.



Entente International Communication has been lobbying on copyright for

the European Association of Consumer Electronics Manufacturers (EACEM),

which counts Panasonic, Philips and Sony among its members.



Entente managing director Peter Verhille says: ’Inherently, those on the

other side, the publishers, have a somewhat simpler message to

communicate.



They’re saying they are defending European culture and are acting to

eradicate piracy. The European Parliament sees one of its main missions

as the promotion of European culture, so to promote the case of the

technology industry is not very easy.’



One of the challenges facing Entente has been to distil the legalities

of the issue into simple messages so that politicians and civil servants

understand all the implications, economic, social and cultural. As well

as lobbying, Entente has been looking to build alliances with other

interested parties such as user groups. Media relations is also an

important part of the campaign.



Verhille says: ’We think the media is a useful tool to communicate

non-legal messages and we have worked hard to raise the profile of the

campaign.’



In addition to lobbying at EU level, Entente is also helping the EACEM

organise lobbying in member states. ’We have devised the campaign

strategy and all the necessary briefing documents and positioning

papers,’ says Verhille. ’And we have helped the association brief

national representatives who are acting as lobbyists for them.’



The word from Brussels and the council of ministers is that copyright

legislation is proving such a controversial issue that final adoption of

the directive is unlikely before 2000.



’We have managed to put the interests of the consumer electronics

industry on the agenda, which is shown by the arguments now being put

forward by MEPs in our defence. It is no longer taken for granted that

the publishing companies will win the day,’ concludes Verhille.



GLOBALISATION: CROSS-ATLANTIC OPINIONS ON GLOBAL ISSUES



The trend towards globalisation means European public affairs

consultants can rarely work in a purely European context. One issue

where they must take a worldwide view is climate change.



Last December, the European Union signed the Kyoto Protocol which

commits countries to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Detailed

negotiations are still ongoing, so consultants offering advice to

clients that may be affected must keep abreast of global

developments.



Francoise Van Hemelryck, a senior consultant at Brussels-based lobbying

firm Adamson BSMG Worldwide, advises a number of pharmaceutical

companies, including IPAC (International Pharmaceutical Aerosols

Consortium), on climate change. PR firm BSMG Worldwide acquired Adamson

in October and Van Hemelryck now claims she can offer her clients a

worldwide intelligence gathering service.



’We are keen to involve our colleagues in the US and get the US position

on climate change ahead of negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol,’ says Van

Hemelryck. She is also working closely with the BSMG office in Geneva

which is responsible for following international developments and makes

extensive use of the internet to track issues.



The next set of negotiations takes place in Buenos Aires in

November.



The US has yet to sign the protocol and is under close scrutiny. Van

Hemelryck expects the talks to focus on the so-called flexibility

mechanism which allows countries to vary how they meet their greenhouse

gas emissions targets.



’It has mainly been the US pushing for the use of this mechanism and the

EU position has been a bit ambiguous. What has to be agreed in Buenos

Aires is how to make progress on the practical implementation of the

protocol,’ she says.



In Brussels, there are signs of a growing recognition of the importance

of the international dimension. Van Hemelryck observes: ’The fact that

the Environment Directorate is seriously considering the creation of a

directorate dealing exclusively with international affairs shows how the

EU environmental policy will have to become increasingly integrated with

international regulatory or political developments.’



As negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol continue, she is confident Adamson

BSMG Worldwide has the best resources to keep clients posted on

developments.



’We tell clients when a special meeting or workshop is taking place and

advise whether they should participate. We monitor studies and suggest

how they can have an input. And we advise clients when they need to meet

with officials, how to present themselves and what position to take,’

she says.



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