In an interview with a Brussels-based representative of a leading energy company, we discussed several important aspects of the communication process that links private interests and the COM.
In general he stressed the importance of Eurogroups that is European industry associations that are in direct contact with EU institutions. Those organisations function as communication platform on which a wide range of relevant contacts are cultivated and maintained. Eurogroups have multilingual staffs that make contacts especially to MEPs easier to develop; long standing experiences are also an important asset.
With respect to the specific policy area, where his company has vested interests, a cooperative working relationship has been established. Industry organises informal working groups to which policy officers from the COM are invited. The working groups serve as informal discussion forums where ideas can be discussed freely and opinions openly expressed. Invitations are personalized, no substitutes are allowed which makes the working group a trust based informal working relationships.
Since such relationships depend on personal contacts, it is important to nurture the relationship with COM officials, which includes the continuation of contacts even if an official is transferred to another post. In order to get the most out of the working group meetings it is also important be aware of the developments in the COM. Thus, one needs a network of personal contacts the build-up of which takes at least 12 months.
However, because those working groups are a permanent institution, there are no official COM publications that contain surprises for stakeholders. Policy proposals and political initiatives are effectively developed in dialogue between both sides. The subject of the cooperation is the “factual core” of a given policy.
In the light of our inquiry, this constitutes evidence that the development of a common understanding of a societal problem is an essential aspect of the process ob interest intermediation in the EU.
Another important hint toward the nature of this process can be drawn from his assertion that there are policy trends that need to be taken into account if the particular interests are to be advances in those communicative networks of actors. He mentioned the concept of “security of energy supplies” as a recent case in the point that constitutes a new frame under which particular interests have to be redefined and communicated. Such a redefinition of company interests can even reflect back into the company and raise the awareness for new possible business opportunities.
Hence, under the theoretical lens, the question arises how a companies particular interests are defined vis-à-vis the policy making process in the EU.