FOCUS: EURO LOBBYING; Lobbyists flex their muscles in Brussels

LOCATION LOGISTICS: Lobbyists discover the importance of being in the right place at the right time ADVERTISING: Toy and tobacco manufacturers battle to prevent European advertising bans on their products LEGISLATION: European Express Organisation pushes for greater liberalisation of European postal services

LOCATION LOGISTICS: Lobbyists discover the importance of being in the

right place at the right time

ADVERTISING: Toy and tobacco manufacturers battle to prevent European

advertising bans on their products

LEGISLATION: European Express Organisation pushes for greater

liberalisation of European postal services



Lobbyists who want to make themselves heard in Brussels are beginning to

realise that it is also necessary to have a presence in member states.

John-Pierre Joyce reports



At the height of the BSE crisis in May, when the British press and

government whipped themselves into a lather over the European Union’s

refusal to lift the ban on British beef by-products like tallow and

gelatine, the finger of blame inevitably pointed to those member states

which had blocked the Commission’s proposals.



Typically, Germany was singled out for particular opprobrium along with

Austria and Spain. But, as press reports pointed out, these three

countries alone - with a blocking capacity of 22 votes - were not enough

to wreck British hopes of an early lifting of the ban.



Portugal, it emerged, used its five votes to uphold the restrictions in

an effort to garner support for its own cattle slaughter programme. This

gave an extra vote to the 26 needed to ensure a blocking minority. The

decision by Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg to support the ban

then passed almost without notice.



The episode highlights the significance of qualified majority voting in

carrying measures at EU level and the importance of the system for

lobbyists attempting to secure their clients’ interests.



Introduced in 1986 to make decision-making on single market issues at

the Council of Ministers quicker and to avoid the delays of unanimous

voting, the qualified majority system allocates each member state a

certain number of votes in accordance with population size. Germany,

France, Italy and the UK have ten; Spain has eight; Belgium, Greece, the

Netherlands and Portugal have five; Austria and Sweden have four;

Ireland, Denmark and Finland have three; Luxemburg has two.



On issues such as agriculture, fisheries, the internal market,

environment and transport the council decides by qualified majority

vote. When a Commission proposal is involved, at least 62 votes out of a

total of 87 must be cast by at least ten member states.



Various committees, like the veterinary committee behind the beef ban

vote, have their own systems. This creates a situation in which

different combinations of countries can pass or block a measure.



As Graham Benison, vice president of human resources and corporate

affairs for toy maker Mattel Europa, points out, this forces lobbyists

to play the numbers game and concentrate on creating majorities or

blocking minorities, rather than trying to get unanimity. This, in turn,

means that lobbying on the ground in member states is at least as

important as campaigning at the administrative centres in Brussels.



‘What people forget is that all the major decisions which affect the EU

are made at the Council of Ministers where there is a great deal of

horse trading,’ says Benison. ‘Those decisions affect ministers’ own

countries and they are going to represent a view based on the

information they receive there, so its very important that you catch

their ear both at home and in Brussels.



‘A lot of people don’t understand that it pays to be in both places. It

doesn’t matter how effective your lobbying is in Brussels, if you don’t

act in the member states you get nowhere.’



The importance of lobbying EU representatives on home territory is

likely to increase as the Intergovernmental Conference discusses changes

to the structure of European institutions.



The IGC, which opened in Turin in March, is examining ways of adapting

the union to accommodate new members, including Cyprus, Malta and the

east Europeans, all of which have, or are, about to apply for

membership.



The enlargement of the EU to up to 27 members is likely to result in a

revision of qualified majority voting and an erosion of national vetoes

on many areas of decision making.



Further proposals include removing the right of every member state to

have a commissioner, allowing the European parliament to appoint the

Commission president, and allowing him to choose his team of

commissioners from lists of names submitted by each government. The

parliament, too, may be given greater powers of co-decision with the

council.



According to Benison, the latter proposal in particular will force

lobbyists to look more closely at the needs and interests of other

member states and their representatives in attempting to achieve

clients’ objectives.



‘The French, for example, don’t care in the same way as the Swedes about

advertising restrictions, but they do want quotas on imported programmes

from the US and Japan,’ he says. ‘So the French will say to the Swedes,

if you help us increase quotas we will support you in trying to impose

restrictions on advertising. Lobbyists need to understand how that

works.’



Daniel Verpeaux, joint managing director of Grayling France, echoes

those sentiments. ‘Many people think that working at the centre in

Brussels is enough, but more and more you have to work on both sides or

you have no chance to succeed,’ he says.



‘There is no ‘European’ public and no real ‘European’ media. You have to

act and talk locally. If you have a press conference in Brussels, for

example, the journalists follow just the political sector, not a

particular industry,’ he adds.



But with so much activity focused on and within member states, is it

really necessary for companies and lobbying agencies to have offices in

the Belgian capital at all? Most lobbyists, like European Strategy’s

chairman Michael Burrell, still think it is, as long as you have a

supporting network of offices or contacts in member states.



‘It depends what you want. If you are looking for straight monitoring

through the official journal you can do that from Brussels, London or

Timbuktu, provided they are on-line. But if you want proper lobby

contact on the ground you really need a presence.’



Certainly the international PR agencies continue to see a strong

Brussels presence as vital to develop public affairs work. In July

Fleishman-Hillard brought in Michel Deurinck, formerly secretary general

of the European Advertising Tripartite lobby group, to head up its

Brussels office. This month Edelman appointed Belmont consultant

Constance Kann to lead its own branch in the Belgian capital and help

kickstart its flagging performance in the EU lobby market.



But Clare Wenner, former director of corporate affairs for food firm

Geest and a GJW director before that, is sceptical about the need for

any kind of office. ‘You don’t have to open an office in every country,

you just have to be enormously imaginative about how you go about

lobbying,’ she argues.



‘You have to tap into a network and get out and about. If you know the

people you go to see them. My great worry is that a lot of so-called

lobbyists don’t know the people. It costs a lot to have offices

everywhere and that can add to the cost for a client,’ she says.



Wenner also thinks that the BSE crisis and the UK government’s short-

lived policy of non-cooperation highlights a pressing need for British

companies to adopt a more active approach to Eurolobbying.



‘If you have a particular interest that depends on other people’s votes,

like it or lump it you have to lobby them,’ she says. ‘One of the big

problems is that we in the UK have an attitude problem about dealing

with foreigners. There is still a feeling that you can leave it to the

government and they will look after you. British companies are learning

that you can’t rely on that, but there is still a long way to go.’



Broadcast views: Working on Sweden’s advertising ban



In attempting to overturn Sweden’s ban on television advertising to

children, the Toy Manufacturers of Europe (TME) has focused much of its

lobbying efforts on members states across the European Union as well as

Brussels institutions.



Formed six years ago, the association represents the interests of toy

companies and associations from across Europe, including Hasbro, Mattel,

Lego, Bluebird Toys and the British Toy and Hobby Association. Since

1991 it has waged a battle against a Swedish law which prohibits the

broadcasting of advertisements directed at children below the age of 12.



The government and most of the Swedish public claim that television

advertisements are unethical because children do not understand their

commercial purpose and are consequently misled. This law, argues the

TME, contravenes the European Commission’s 1989 directive ‘Broadcasting

without Frontiers’ which compels member states to accept broadcasts

transmitted from other EU countries.



With the directive now under review in Brussels, the association,

together with European Strategy, are lobbying the commission, the

European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. The TME has also

teamed up with consultancy networks in Denmark, Germany, France, Italy,

Spain and Holland in an effort to convince the rest of Europe that the

Swedish position contravenes single market principles.



‘Council members are representatives of states and so you have to lobby

them in their own country, especially France, the UK, Germany, Italy and

Spain which have the most votes,’ says Peter Waterman, chairman of the

TME’s broadcast committee. ‘We want to put forward the view that the ban

is a Swedish rather than a European position.’



Waterman points out that Italy is a particularly difficult country to

lobby because of the relationship between television and the political

process, highlighted during the premiership of Silvio Berlusconi.

Meanwhile elements within Romano Prodi’s left of centre government are

as keen as the Swedes to introduce a ban on children’s advertising.



Germany presents other problems because of its federal constitution. The

regulation of advertising is the responsibility of the 16 individual

states, or lander, rather than the federal government in Bonn.

Consequently, TME tends to direct its lobbying efforts on the more

populous and industrial lander in central and southern Germany, such as

Bavaria, Baden-Wurtemburg and North-Rhine Westphalia.



In Sweden the association has adopted a PR campaign to convince the

Swedish public that TV advertising is harmless. As well as organising

seminars and conferences, the TME last year published research by

Jeffrey Goldstein, professor of child psychology at the University of

Utrecht, which showed that children do not differentiate between

advertisements and other programmes, but appraise each according to

their content.



European Express: Aiming to be first past the post



One of the Shandwick Group’s professed strategic priorities last year

was to strengthen its European public affairs capabilities. In September

it set up Shandwick Public Affairs in Brussels. The office now has a

team of five headed by former foreign diplomat and, more recently, MD of

Shandwick Netherlands, Louise Harvey.



Harvey claims its USP is to provide a holistic approach, combining

lobbying with broader public affairs work, particularly political media

relations.



Since November the new office has employed this approach for its client

European Express Organisation - the courier trade association formed by

express distributors TNT, UPS and FedEx.



The EEO is pushing for greater liberalisation in European postal

services, with particular focus on the European Commission’s draft

directive being considered on 27 September 1996.



Opposition comes from some member states’ national post offices, which

have traditionally dominated the market place. They argue that

liberalisation, when combined with the electronic competition from faxes

and e-mail, would make a universal service unaffordable and job losses

inevitable.



Shandwick’s objective has been to keep the private sector’s views on the

European political agenda. The message is that increased competition

will have the opposite effect and jobs will be created in private

courier firms.



Harvey says: ‘This sort of campaign could only be done effectively from

Brussels. The press corps here is the second in size only to Washington

and our objectives require constant influence on this community.



‘Timing is also important. There’s no point in trying to capture a

Brussels correspondent’s attention on postal services, while he is

occupied with a major agricultural issue,’ she adds.



Harvey claims that the parallel use of direct lobbying and media

relations can identify the relevant ‘trigger points’ in the political

process and stimulate debate to influence decision makers at appropriate

times.



The media drive has ensured that the private sector’s views are being

aired in heavyweight titles like the Economist, the Financial Times and

Daily Telegraph.



‘We’re not necessarily looking for a specific mention of the EEO,’ says

Harvey, ‘But we try to ensure that the Greek chorus emanating from the

national post offices when liberalisation is mentioned, is balanced by

industry’s view.’



Shandwick says the process is fluid but there are some encouraging

developments, like the shift in the UK government’s position in favour

of direct mail liberalisation - 17 per cent of the express industry’s

business - which was demonstrated at the last meeting of the EU Telecoms

Council.



The EEO will have a tougher job changing the attitudes of the French,

Belgian, Greek and Portuguese governments, which are strongly opposed to

their postal monopolies being tampered with.



‘You have to assess in which countries it’s worthwhile putting our case

and where it’s a lost cause,’ adds Harvey.



Burning issues: Getting to grips with EU legislation



Faced with a draft European Commission directive to ban tobacco

advertising, the personal ire of public health commissioner Padraig

Flynn after Philip Morris’ attack last year on EU anti-smoking drives,

and mounting pressure from health campaigners over the effects of

passive smoking, the Brussels-based Confederation of European Community

Cigarette Manufacturers (CECCM) needs as many friends in Europe as it

can get.



Set up in 1989 and representing seven tobacco companies - Philip Morris,

RJ Reynolds, BAT, Rothman, Imperial Tobacco, Gallaher and Reemsta - the

CECCM represents 70 per cent of cigarette producers in terms of sales.

Although it ostensibly lobbies on behalf of its own members, the

confederation has often found it effective to team up with other trade

bodies and associations to add weight to its arguments.



Perhaps the thorniest issue is that of tobacco advertising. The EC

directive has been altered many times since its initial publication in

1992 and continues to be stalled by opposition from the UK, Germany, the

Netherlands, Greece and Denmark. Using arguments in favour of free trade

across the European Union, the CECCM has found common cause with groups

like the European Advertising Agencies Association in Brussels and the

European Publishers Association based in London



‘We are setting a precedent,’ explains Catherine de Valois, the CECCM’s

manager. ‘If the EU starts banning tobacco advertising then who will be

next? The advertising agencies are very worried about that so we work

together informally and communicate with other sectors to see what their

objectives are. We plan to make it a general issue of freedom of

expression.’



De Valois points out that media organisations are equally concerned

about what they see as threats to cross border trade. ‘An advertising

ban would contradict with the idea of the single market and is a barrier

to the circulation of goods,’ she says. ‘You have to co-ordinate with

other trade associations if you are working to the same goal.’



The CECCM also works in co-operation with retail, environmental and

packaging groups to present a common response to EU legislation

regulating the amount and type of material used to package goods, refuse

recovery methods and recycling targets. ‘If there are too many

regulations on packaging we will be faced with the problem of

recognition and branding,’ says de Valois. ‘We are not in the front line

on this issue, but we get involved from time to time.’



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