Classical Athens has been credited with the establishment of the first democracy. The term “Demokratia” was coined around 500 BC, again, in Athens. Its etymology is quite simple: “demos” meaning people and “-kratia” deriving from –kratos, which meant power. Europe was built on the notion of democracy-people-power.
However, in contemporary times there is a tendency, at least for some European citizens, to feel removed from the decision making process and also, feel more than a little anxious about the role of business actors in Europe. The accusation that business actors have undue influence over policy-makers is ever-present amongst a few, who also try to convince citizens that they don’t have any say in the legislative process in Brussels. So what if we told you that actually, the opposite is true and that so-called “citizens groups” (many of which, in fact, are funded, at taxpayer’s expense, by the very same public institutions that they lobby) make more of a difference than some say?
A recent London School of Economics analysis, by Andreas Dür, Patrick Bernhagen and David Marshall, produced some very interesting results. Their findings, based on 70 legislative proposals introduced by the European Commission between 2008 and 2010, found that campaign groups were far more successful at achieving their outcomes in EU legislative decisions. This, of course, contradicts the very vocal critics of business lobbying, who create a culture of fear around business influence in Brussels. The authors of this study interviewed Commission officials and this provided them with data on the issues based around the 70 proposals and also the positions of the interest groups that lobbied on the issues.
To put it simply: The data was analysed to calculate the measure of lobbying success, and the measure of this success was based on how favourable the outcome of the legislation was in relation to the actors’ position. A number of factors were taken into account, for example: media attention, the actors’ endowment with relevant information and the distance between the Commission’s position and the actors’ ideal position. One reason for campaign groups being more successful than business lobbying could be because the contemporary EU decision making process favours a high-regulation approach.
At Monsanto, we believe that all stakeholders should have a voice when it comes to the decision making process in Europe: citizens, businesses, everyone. This is the very basis on which democracy is founded. We also want to make it clear that businesses are not a leviathan when it comes to the decision-making process. And that businesses such as Monsanto only thrive when their European employees–the overwhelming majority of whom are EU citizens–as well as customers benefit from the safe, healthy, affordable food that our products help European farmers produce.
You can read the full analysis of the LSE findings here.
Also interesting: A 2013 speech by European Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič about lobbying in Brussels, which includes choice quotes such as these:
“Yes, big business is here – but so are environmental NGOs, youth organisations, religious groups, civil liberty campaigners, local and regional governments, industry associations, think tanks, law firms and many more besides. And sometimes the smaller entities are even financially supported by the EU.” [emphass added]
“What really makes lobbying most effective is being transparent, accurate, having nothing to hide, and following the ethical guidelines that signing the register implies. Businesses, NGOs or any other organisation who do that – either directly or by hiring others – have a far greater chance of getting their voice heard and can indeed make a positive contribution to a better and more informed debate.”