Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What do EU institutions want from interest groups?

Individuals lobbying their leaders have always been part of the political process and the European Union is no different. There are several reasons why the EU is reliant on interest groups such as access to expertise and legitimacy. 

Lobbying has always been part of public life and the European Union has been no exception. All parties are pursuing their agenda through influencing the EU’s legislative progress as well as initiating legal action (Coen and Richardson, 2009). Most EU officials do accommodate lobby groups and see them as an effective part of the policy process.  Since carrying out research is expensive and the EU not always in a position to pay for this, access to technical information via interests groups is one solution to this problem. 

As Watson and Skacleton argue ‘organised interest provide a wealth of information to EU policymakers and contribute a diverse range of views a legislative process that, on paper, features only the formal EU institutions’ (2008, p. 93). The increasing range of EU policies has meant that it attracts an increasing number of Interest and business groups (that represent a diverse range of views and opinions) and by including them in the policy process then the EU benefits by gaining more legitimacy.

This key to understanding why the EU allows interest groups to lobby officials is that they are two interdependent entities (Bouwen, 2002). In reality, the interest and business groups have what the EU needs (information) and in return, these groups are able to push their agenda. The groups get access to the EU and, in return, the EU gets legitimacy and expert knowledge (Hix, 1999). 

As Rainer Eising argues, ‘interest groups have a particularly important role in connecting European-level institutions to the citizens of the European Union’ (2006, p. 203).   

Legitimacy is an important factor in why the EU allows interest groups. Without expert knowledge and good quality research, the EU does not have the authority to govern.

List of References 

Bouwen, P (2002) Corporate Lobbying in the European Union: The Logic of Access. Journal of European Public Policy, 9, number 3: 365-90.

Coen, D and Richardson, J (2009) “Learning to Lobby the European Union: 20 Years of Change” in Coen, D and Richardon, J. (eds) Lobbying the European Union: Institutions, Actors and Issues. (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  

Eising, R “Interest Groups in the European Union” in Cini, M (2007). European Union Politics (2 edition). (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Hix, S (1999) “Interest Representation” in Hix, S (eds) The Political System of the European Union (Basingstoke: Macmillan)     

Shackelton M and Watson R (2008) “Organized Interests and Lobbying”, in Bomberg E, Peterson J and Stubb A, The European Union: How does it Work?, (Oxford: Oxford University Press) 

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