FOCUS: EUROLOBBYING - Making a point on many levels - Mulit-level lobbying has come of age as European players get to grips with the complex relationships at state, national, EU and international levels

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’.

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

levels.



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

international level.



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

worldwide.’



Adam Atkinson, account director at Shandwick Consultants, argues that

having offices in every major financial and consumer market is

crucial.



’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

Advisers.



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,’

says Cruikshanks.



’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

adds.



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

clients.



’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

generic.’



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

BSE.



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

pro-consumer.’



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

front.



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

detail.



’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

Atlantic.



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

example.’



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

national monopolies.



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

Cholouale-Datou.



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