Robert Francis

Account Director

Grayling Brussels

With just five months to go before the European Parliament elections, legislators are scrambling to tie up as many loose ends as possible before the last Parliament meeting in April.
This is a tricky time for lobbyists of all persuasions. Like a high-stake poker game, do you twist or stick?

Better the devil you know?

In other words, how far do you compromise in the interests of reaching an agreement before April? Do you actually want an agreement before April? Can you live with legislative discussions rumbling on until Autumn 2014, bringing with it further business uncertainty to the market, and not only that – can you live with new fresh-faced MEPs and Commissioners reopening issues which you had thought had been done and dusted many months ago?

Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, perhaps.

On the other hand, a law rushed through the corridors of power could end up being a law which is ill-planned and not fit for purpose.

Tying up loose ends is all well and good, but if those ends end up frayed, then your business may have more problems than if the law had been pushed back to the next legislature.

All of which may give the impression that, as elections near, there is nothing to be gained and everything to lose.

Except this is not the case.

Know the lay of the land

As ever, it is advantageous to know the lay of the land.

Who are your supporters, who your opponents? What is likely to be the makeup of the new Parliament? Which MEPs are staying, which will depart the scene? Sniff the air – do you smell Parliamentary rebellion on the wind? Or are MEPs happy to let this issue drift, there being no political will to actually take the issue further under the current mandate.

Once you have this information, you can already begin to plan for various fall-back options.

What if the issue you needed to be finalised looks like it will be pushed back to the next Parliament - don’t sit on your hands. Go out and meet prospective new MEPs, spread the message in the Member States, explain why this issue is critical for your business and for Europe, and why MEPs – either in this legislature or the next – need to take it seriously.

If it looks like MEPs are going to push it through prematurely, perhaps for no other reason than to show off to their electorates, you will need to get engaged, go out and meet your key decision-makers, explain your red lines, what you can live with, and your best-case scenarios. Adapt yourself to your surroundings and work with what you’ve got.

This is a scary time for in-house lobbyists, but it needn’t be. The rules of the game haven’t changed, but the context demands more rigorous adherence to the rules.

After all, failure to adapt can have a detrimental impact on your business’s bottom line.

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