Machiavelli in Brussels: The Art of Lobbying the EU

By Rinus Van Schendelen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
LOBBYING AND EU DEMOCRACY

Democracy as a Criterion

Lobbying on the EU playing field is frequently and publicly criticised for its so-called damaging effects on the democratic functioning of the EU. What lobbyists do behind their desks, when organising their homework, is not a matter of public concern. During the previously mentioned 1992 EP hearings on lobbying, the critical side of the debating forum had three major accusations. Firstly, that the already most dominant interest groups in society, such as, allegedly, the industrial multinationals, lobby the most. The inference here was that they create an imbalance of decision-making, to the disadvantage of the weaker interest groups such as workers, consumers and small enterprises. Secondly, that much lobbying takes place behind closed doors. By inference, this creates a lack of transparency, which frustrates competitors, the mass media and other officials. Thirdly, that much lobbying involves a lot of abuses and immoral practices, such as document robbery, blackmail and bribery. The inference here was that this should be forbidden.

Whether these accusations and inferences were valid or not, they brought the public debate on lobbying under the framework of democracy. The critics of lobbying believed that the allegedly dominant opaque and immoral lobbying was putting EU democracy in danger. This framework is, of course, only a public choice out of many alternatives [Graziano, 1998]. The phenomenon of lobbying could have been (and, in the future, can be) debated within different frameworks as well. Three examples are given here. One alternative framework of evaluation is provided by the criterion of integration [Greenwood, 1997, X; Sinnott, 1994]: do the various stakeholders, lobbying for their issues and coming from different countries, sectors, regions and other constituencies, contribute to a more stable EU decision-making system or not? A second alternative framework might be that of efficient EU decision-making: does lobbying make it easier for EU officials to come to a decision or not? A third framework addresses the welfare of citizens:

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