The concept of lobbying can be said to be a modern activity and it’s perceived in different ways in different cultures.
Although the European Community is a union, there are many differences between the countries. Taking into account the different lobby practices in Europe, research shows that Belgium, Germany, Romania and Portugal are some examples of this assumption.
The main differences between these countries in lobby practice can arguably be transparency, legislation, public opinion, main interests and pressure groups.
On the one hand, Germany could be said to be the most powerful country in Europe in terms of economic development. The high activity of lobby practices in Germany creates an uncertain social climate, the citizens don’t trust the leaders nor the institutions. In response to the social turmoil regarding lobby, the German legislation towards lobby practices could be said to be the most transparent in Europe. Since 1960, when lobby activities started in Germany, there have been many developments in lobby legislation. Nowadays, the Bundestag offers a Voluntary Register for pressure groups which makes the practice of this discipline one of the highest ones in terms of transparency. Taking into account that Germany represents the strongest financial market in Europe, the main interests of German lobbying are business and trade unions.
Brussels represents the core centre of European lobby with more than 15.000 pressure groups. In particular, Belgium lobby shares the international lobby legislation, therefore, Belgium also has a voluntary register for lobby practice. The public opinion in Belgium, and especially in Brussels, can be said to have a negative approach to lobbying due to the concentration of international pressure groups and as a result, there is a high level of awareness concerning this domain. As mentioned before, Brussels represents heart of European lobbying and it’s at the same time where legislation towards lobby is implemented. Therefore, the different European Union leaders are working on establishing complete transparency through a code of conduct and compulsory register in lobby practice.
On the other hand, there are countries that have no legislation concerning lobby practice. Some of these contries are the developing countries like Romania, in which lobbying has been practiced for about 20 years. Romania has a voluntary register, although this country’s constitution does not include laws concerning the lobby activities. The main interests that pressure groups share in Romania are environment and economy. Regarding the public opinion, of Romanian society towards lobby, the majority of the citizens share a positive attitude towards this practice.
Portugal is one of the countries with the weakest lobby awareness in Europe. In terms of legislation, there is no regulation towards the lobby activity. Public opinion towards this aspect is inexistent due to the low level of lobby awareness in this country.
Having compared the main differences of European lobbying, it could be said that the European Union is not a uniform organization and that the European leaders need to work on creating a stronger, trans-national regulation in order to create a powerful and transparent European lobby activity.