The resignation of the European Commission executive this week is
likely to make a profound difference to the way the lobbying and PR
industry works in Brussels. The auditor’s report suggested that much of
the fraud and mismanagement within the commission was to be found in its
relationship with outside contractors.
There may, as a result, be a tightening of the already complex rules
governing the commission’s relationship with contractors. Although they
are above suspicion, PR agencies which have built businesses on
undertaking large pieces of work for the commission, will be subject to
the same tightening of the rules as other less honest contractors.
Another layer of red tape may discourage agencies from tendering for
commission work altogether.
Lobbyists work will be affected by a shift of power between the
parliament and the commission. The European Commission’s credibility has
been deeply damaged by the protracted battle for survival of its
executive. The executive’s delay in taking action bore out the very
criticisms contained in the auditor’s report published on Monday. The
report accused the commission of indiscipline, negligence and lack of
The European Parliament has held considerable powers over the commission
for some years now, but it has not truly flexed its muscles until this
episode. And with the commission’s credibility so damaged, the
parliament will have to continue to show the leadership that will be
lacking at the commission in the coming months.
Traditionally the commission has been the most important policy-making
body. Once drawn up by the commission, directives have undergone, for
the most part, only minor changes in the parliament. Lobbyists will now
need to warn their clients that the parliament may choose to demonstrate
its authority by rewriting those directives.
Any changes in Brussels are going to affect London lobbying teams
The number of companies retaining agencies to handle their public
affairs across more than one country is increasing. Witness APCO’s
appointment this week by direct-selling firm Amway in the UK, Brussels,
France and the Netherlands. In multi-country campaigns like these,
messages being transmitted from Westminster have to chime with those
being put out in Brussels.With a less predictable parliament, UK
businesses will need to monitor events in Brussels more closely, and
co-ordinate multi-country campaigns accordingly.