Brussels confirmed as lobbying Mecca by new study

Brussels remains the hub of public affairs, according to a first-of-its-kind study into the state of EU lobbying.

In a comprehensive analysis of how companies approach public affairs management, the Public Affairs Council last year surveyed a pool of organisations which range from enterprises with a worldwide turnover of less than €10 million to firms that bring in hundreds of billions.

The sample size was enough to show that 61% of companies base their public affairs office in Belgium and that the most popular use of contractors is to directly lobby the EU institutions.

Only 16% of those companies are actually headquartered in Belgium, while just over a third of them are US-based.

While half of the respondents said they had little to no budget for public affairs, those that did said that a quarter of it goes on hiring contractors to promote their interests. Trade associations are the go-to means of advancing the agenda.

When asked what problems face the profession, the issues of transparency and the confusion caused by the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU were the most often cited factors.

The survey also revealed that companies are concerned by the often negative stigma that lobbying carries and actually conveying internally the value of it to their business.

In terms of CEO involvement, there was a mixed bag of responses. Some 20% of respondents said that their head honchos had “extensive” involvement in European government activities.

Two-thirds of CEOs have involvement to some extent, but a significant one-third said that there was zero participation in public affairs.

An overwhelming 40% of the organisations were from the manufacturing sector, but the other companies surveyed came from a wide range of fields, including finance, healthcare, retail and transportation.

In a boost to the art that is lobbying, over half said that their allocation of staff to public affairs had remained steady with a further quarter saying that it had increased slightly.

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