The recent disagreement between the US and Europe over the dollars
2 billion investment to develop the South Pars gas field off Iran by the
French energy group Total, highlights the political risk inherent in
foreign investment decisions. While professional political risk analysis
can warn of potential flashpoints, it is often up to lobbyists to
contain the subsequent ’fire’.
Lobbyists representing Total will not only have to deal with the French
government. They must seek to influence public opinion in France and
across Europe, garner support in European capitals, counter a national
boycott campaign launched by French pressure groups, and organise
support in the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation. Most
importantly it has to turn around opinion in Washington.
The Total case epitomises the global strategies now employed by
multinational corporations and the economic interdependence of nation
states. The old domestic agenda has become internationalised and the
traditional international agenda has become domesticised (Hocking).
These developments have great significance to companies and their
dealings with policy-makers.
Multi-level organisations, whether trades unions, state-owned industries
or private corporations must now be active politically on many
Issues that, 20 years ago, were of solely national importance, are now
determined or influenced by international bodies. Politics has become a
global phenomenon and policy boundaries are disintegrating.
Modern corporations should be aware of, and be able to respond to,
political developments on the local, regional, national and the
Each level has its own unique networks with their own culture,
procedures and objectives - and this multi-level lobbying poses a series
of challenges to lobbyists.
They first of all need to be geared up to cope with the dynamics of
local, European and international lobbying. As APCO’s joint managing
director Brad Staples says: ’If you are influencing policy you need to
be involved at state level, national, EU and member state level - so you
have to track the issue and influence the debate as it is shaped
Adam Atkinson, account director at Shandwick Consultants, argues that
having offices in every major financial and consumer market is
’It acts as an information network. The public affairs arm works mainly
with Brussels and Washington and we can inform our global clients how
they are perceived by decision-makers in different arenas’.
Shandwick has, claims Atkinson, ’a global reach which chimes with the
structure of multinationals such as Digital’.
IT company Digital consolidated under ten business units last year and
required a single message communicated worldwide. Atkinson says:
’Shandwick provides control and direction for Digital’s message and we
have built up substantial expertise in the technical issues in the
different policy levels.’ The greatest advantage of hiring a global PR
or lobbying agency, he says, is co-ordination.
Richard Linning, a partner in PRP, has been lobbying in Brussels for 14
years. He argues that the notion of multi-level lobbying is far from new
but says that ’effective lobbying depends on knowing where Commission
proposals come from. Only around six per cent are spontaneous Commission
proposals, 13 per cent of proposals are a response to member states’
requests and around 18 per cent come from international agreements.’
Some Euro-lobbyists are expanding their operations out of Brussels into
a wider arena. Adamson Associates, for example, has opened an office in
Geneva, where the World Trade Organisation is based, to respond to the
new global agenda.
Chairman Paul Adamson says: ’Our office in Geneva is able to monitor and
react to developments in the WTO, WHO, UNEC and a range of other
international bodies. More issues are raised at a global level first by
public interest groups which later have an impact on Brussels, but
conversely Brussels also acts as a gateway to the global issues.’
Adamson Associates’ expansion was a reaction to demands from clients for
it to have a global reach, as was that of European Public Policy
EPPA now has offices in 23 countries. Managing director Per Utterbeck
says: ’The challenge is to understand both the similarities and the
differences between the different political cultures. It is important to
be present in Brussels and also to have contacts in the member states
and to understand national politics.’
Elaine Cruikshanks, managing director of Hill and Knowlton in Brussels,
says that when working with a client on a multi-level strategy she maps
out the different players involved to highlight the complexities of the
negotiating environment - such as the institutions, industry groups,
type of media, pressure groups and how the levels are inter-related in
the lobbying issue.
’Multi-level lobbying has been going on for a while, but there is now
more understanding about the complexity between the different levels,’
’It is essential to build alliances to influence the agenda at a world
trade level, or through European institutions which within them have a
link to the national member states. So if the British vote is important
to you, you have to do your homework in London. You can’t ignore this
when there are sensitive political issues’ she says.
The key, she says, ’is to be very precise in targeting the key
individuals on each level. You have to establish what the agenda is in
each forum, construct an argument that they can fit into their agenda
and which can then multiply the impact of the client’s message.’
APCO’s Staples agrees that it is the tailoring of the message that is
crucial.’The biggest challenge is to maintain the consistency of the
message at a local and international level and make sure it is tweaked
and tailored to the environment.
’It is also essential to ensure that all the offices working on the
account are able to assume the same level of quality and maturity of
public affairs consultancy from Washington across to Central Asia,’ he
Global demands are having a big impact on agency management - although
consultancies devise different solutions to internal structuring.
Linning at PRP prefers to construct a team to fit the needs of each
client, and will call in relevant partners where necessary.
’Rather than be experts on every subject in every state, clients are
best served by forming teams with people who are the most qualified in
the subject area. So we work with many networks,’ explains Linning.
GPC Market Access Europe - which has a staff of 35 under managing
director Julia Harrison - is structured in a different way.
’Europe is a multiplicity of levels and national viewpoints and we are
seeing a new breadth of bodies involved in Europe as legislative and
policy organisations outside Europe begin to treat Europe differently as
it reaches maturity,’ explains Harrison.
It is this maturity of the EU, she says, that has put different demands
on staff requirements. ’We need people who can think outside of the
public afffairs and government relations box and deal with the complex
and multi-level arena.
’We are organised differently as a consultancy - and we have different
practice groups such as those who deal with the WTO, and a practice
group for non-governmental organisations, for example. We are organised
so that we have specialists in different areas so we can add value to
’It’s not just about straight advice to clients about how to deal with
the directives. They need to understand the dynamics and the
relationships on complex levels,’ she concludes. ’But you have to tailor
things specifically for clients. Gone are the days of anything
Public health: Appliance of science sparks lobby activity
A new area of opportunity could be opening up for European lobbyists in
the public health arena. Scientific evidence must now be taken into
account in decision-making, following a requirement introduced after the
Amsterdam summit. Scientific committees have been set up reporting to
the directorates-general and offer recommendations on issues such as
Some lobbyists welcome the introduction of another layer in the
decision-making process. Richard Linning, a partner of PRP in Brussels,
says the development ’presents lobbyists with a rare and new opportunity
to influence the process. The informed client can introduce its research
into the system and affect policy development’.
But the introduction of scientific committees has already sparked off a
flurry of lobbying activity around the issue of the banning of British
gelatine in the aftermath of the BSE crisis.
In April this year, the Scientific Steering Committee declared that
earlier conditions imposed on the preparation of UK gelatine were not
stringent enough and that it was impossible to fully ensure that
gelatine was totally safe from BSE.
And in May, European Commissioner Emma Bonino outlined a communication
which recommended a ban on specific risk materials (SRMs) in human and
animal feed throughout the European Union. The ban is likely to take
effect in January next year - giving lobbyists less than two months to
try to overturn the decision.
A gelatine ban also extends to pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, many of
which contain gelatine. Paul Adamson, managing director of Adamson
Associates, represents pharmaceutical companies in the UK and the US and
has been lobbying on the issue.
He says there has been much ’behind-the-scenes lobbying at a high level,
rather than mounting a big media campaign’. He says he has not involved
the European Parliament at this stage. Efforts have instead been
concentrated on key commissioners such as Bonino and agriculture
commissioner Franz Fischler.
Senior Washington officials have also been speaking to the EC, as the
additives are not banned in the US. American drug manufacturers have
been putting forward the argument that there is no risk, and that people
won’t be able to get their medicines if the ban is imposed. This
activity looks set to continue until the end of the year.
While the scientific committees have added another dimension to
lobbying, Adamson welcomes the approach. ’The public health articles
have been given more teeth,’ he says, ’and the EC has taken serious
steps to show that it is trying to be more responsive and
Mergers: Coming under scrutiny from the EC directorate
This has been the year of the super-merger. Big deals have consistently
hit the headlines - including BAT and the Zurich Group, Guinness and
Grand Met, British Airways and American Airlines, Boeing and McDonnell
Douglas and the proposed BT-MCI merger.
And with mergers come the issue of competition, which itself generates
frenzied lobbying activity - on a domestic as well as a European
Competition policy in Europe is overseen by DG IV. It concentrates on
anti-competitive agreements, mergers, the regulated or monopolised
sectors and state aid. And it uses its powers to probe proposed
alliances between major companies.
Public affairs consultancy APCO has been involved in several competition
issues and has taken companies through the merger scrutiny procedure
over the last 12 months. As Brad Staples, joint managing director of
APCO, explains, the task of a consultancy in merger cases is to work
alongside the legal advisers, who examine the merger in minute
’APCO’s aim is to create a political environment conducive to the case
being looked at favourably. The core work is with lawyers to create a
warm feeling about the deal,’ says Staples.
This involves talking to anyone with a political interest in the merger,
which often involves multi-level lobbying on both sides of the
On an EC level, Commissioners and cabinet advisers to the Commissioners
are lobbied by their national industrial sectors on how the merger would
impact on their home state. And, on a domestic level, APCO has to
negotiate with the national competition authorities in the member
states, such as the Office of Fair Trading and the Monopolies and
Mergers Commission in the UK.
The consultancy also liaises with investor relations advisers, public
relations and media relations advisers.
’We have to create a realistic understanding of the business needs of
the merger and what it means for those involved,’ says Staples. ’We have
to explain the employment implications, what the changes to the company
will be in the global marketplace.’
He adds: ’We have to get the business issues understood by all the
official bodies which have interests in the merger. So the consumer
policy commissioner needs to know about the impact on consumers, for
Staples says that the area of competition is potentially a new
specialisation for consultancies in Brussels. ’It is a challenge for
consultancies to be involved in this area which has traditionally been
the territory of lawyers.’
Telecommunications: Expanding European horizons
The European telecommunications industry has seen vast deregulation over
the last ten years. Since 1987, the EU has opened telecoms to political
and economic integration by seeking to harmonise equipment and services,
by constructing a common telecoms infrastructure and by dismantling
This has opened up new opportunities for national telecoms operators to
expand to other European countries. Where it was impossible a decade ago
for anyone other than France Telecom to provide services in France, for
example, from 1 January 1998 EU legislation will invite the full force
of international competition into Europe. And this is changing the
dynamics of the lobbying activities of major telecoms companies.
BT, for example, has worked with European Public Policy Advisers (EPPA)
in Brussels for ten years to establish it as a majorplayer in the
telecoms policy field in Brussels. In the initial stages it concentrated
on lobbying in Brussels to influence decision-makers prior to
legislation. But now that the infrastructure is in place, BT is turning
its attention elsewhere.
’There is less need to be active in Brussels than in the past when it
was all ’up for grabs’,’ explains Laurent Chokouale-Datou, deputy
managing director of EPPA. BT resources now have a different focus: the
company has shifted attention from Brussels and spends more time
lobbying the member states.
’Now that the policy area is more mature, the priority is the
implementation, not the conception,’ says Cholouale-Datou. ’And whatever
each member state implements depends on how BT operates in each of these
countries - whereas ten years ago its was useless to approach national
authorities as the sector was dominated by public monopolies and there
was no framework to allow this.’
The role of the consultancy in this case has to reflect the priorities
of the client. EPPA now has offices in 23 countries and is equipped to
lobby in BT’s key markets, although it has to produce a tailored message
for each country.
’We have to counter local realities, constraints and opportunities but
the overall objective remains tight and controlled,’ says