All you need to know how to influence the EU in one easy chart

A former WWF colleague introduced me to to this chart a few years ago. It comes from Daniel Guegen. I think it is excellent. It accurately explains how the EU works.

Winning the  Battle of Ideas

In 1997, I was younger and had come to Brussels to work for a British Labour MEP. I had just left University academic life and was very naive.

I asked two very experienced officials in DG Environment, who had passed many environmental laws, how much of an original Commission proposal got changed. They ventured between 10% – 15%.

Over time,  that number has stuck with me. I personally think that the number is less than 10%. Sometimes, millions are spent on lobbying,  and at the end of the day, very little changes from the Commission’s original proposal.

That  took me to thinking what is the most effective way to influence the Commission before they adopt a proposal, so what they publish looks similar or indentical to what you wanted in the first place.

I read a lot and borrowed a lot of  tips.

In “Think Tanks, Public Policy and the Politics of Expertise” I came across an excellent idea (well there are many). The one I really like is having a proposal and the supporting material sitting in the filing cabinet, ready for the day when an official or politician asks you for the solution to a problem. I’d recommend all organisations have a set of ready to adopt proposals sitting in the filing cabinets, waiting for the day a call comes from an official or politician looking for the solution to a problem.

I have used this idea. It really works. When working on fisheries at WWF, we knew the Commission had to produce a mid-term review of the CFP. It is set out in the law, so it was easy to predict that interest was going to peak at a certain time in the near future.

Stealing ideas again, this time from from Cialdini, we commissioned the leading experts on European fisheries, MRAG, to produce a shadow review of the CFP. And, to make sure we were not winding up the Commission, we passed a draft to them and gave them carte blanche to make any corrections.

The side effect of being non-confrontational, using peer experts, and producing the report in a timely way  was that the Commission’s final set of proposals for the reform of the CFP looked very similar to the WWF mid term review.
This was not easy to get out the door. The report was not a vindication of all WWF positions. There was pressure to edit the report so it said  what some colleagues wanted it to say. The report was commissioned and paid for by WWF but it did not reflect all WWF’s positions. But, it supported many (around 90% of WWF’s positions).

There is an advantage letting go and letting others speak on your behalf, even if they don’t agree with everything you believe in or want. Your ideas get taken up more often.

If you want ideas to be taken up, it does not happen by accident.

I learned the following.

Magazines: A story in the National Geographic will have many key opinion formers calling you. The Economist will have Cabinets and key MEPs asking you in for a visit.

Newspapers: Coverage in the FT, New Yorks Time, Guardian, Times of London, the Sunday Times,  Le Monde or La Fiagoro will have your phone ringing off the hook the day after.

Academics: Each field has its key academics and research consultancies. These are the go to people that politicians and governments tap for advice. You’ll know who they are, and if you are smart, you will have the same experts on your pay roll for advice. There are super academics, like Cal Sunstein on risk and regulation or Vaclav Smil on energy, whose intervention will skyrocket your issue.

Policy circuit: Each field will have its key circuit of think tanks and research centres that are exploring the latest ideas and thinking in your field. You’ll of course be on that circuit. It is a great place to identify what is coming up in the near future. Those summer schools and policy retreats are a great place to mingle to better understand what’s driving the policy agenda.

Think Tanks: If think tanks did not have an influence, organisations would not spend so much on them. But, perhaps like advertising, the hard part is working out what half of the money is having a positive impact. I think Conservatives have seen the long term power of ideas and invested in think tanks, especially in the USA and the UK. The long term  investment in Hertiage Foundation , Cato Institute, and the UK’s  IEA has paid off. The long term game plan was deliberate. Those funding the the center left and left has been less focused on the “battle of ideas”, and the lack of a clear and persuasive narrative today stands out.

Drafting Phase

Ideas for the Commission’s work programme do not come out of no-where (whatever the Daily Mail says).

Today, there is less chance for issues to be tabled that are on not in the Commission’s Work Programme or the Commission President’s Priorities.

The Commission’s Work Programme is published the end of October.  A few organisations are smart and focus a lot of effort getting their proposals taken up then.

The easy way to do this is to work back from September, when proposals are being firmed up.

I think the easiest way is using the following paths:

  • Parliamentary Questions
  • Council Statements/Declarations
  • Member State(s) interventions
  • Trailing the idea on the conference circuit many months in advance
  • EP own initiative reports
  • Using legislative reviews as a pretext to open up a directive
  • Using the DG’s Strategic Plan (4 year plan) and Annual Plan
  • Frequent contact with key officials in DG and Cabinets
  • Following the Commission’s own think tank, European Political Strategy Centre
  • Working with main political Parties think tanks

 

A Checklist for getting the right law

I enjoyed “The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” by Atul Gawande.

It puts forward a simple idea to avoid mistakes. Use a checklist to work through the action steps you need to take. It is used by pilots. Gawande wants doctors to use it to reduce accidents in surgery.

I think  political campaigners and lobbyists would benefit a lot from using checklists.

My checklist for getting a piece of EU legislation on the books would look something like this:

 

  1. Is your issue/amendment Legal – will the legal service of the Commission, EP or Council squash it?
  2. Will the Commission table the proposal?
  3. Can you get it tabled by a DG or Commissioner?
  4. Can you issue past the Regulatory Scrutiny Board?
  5. Is your issue in line with the Commission’s Political Guidelines and Better Regulation Toolbox?
  6. Can  you it through Inter-Service Consultation?
  7. Can you get a Rapporteur, shadow Rapporteur or  key MEP to back your issue at the Committee stage?
  8. Can you get a simple majority of MEPs at Committee stage to back your issue/amendment?
  9. Can you get a simple majority of MEPs are plenary to back your issue/amendment?
  10. Can you get enough Member States to support your issue/amendment – no blocking minority?
  11. If the Commission does not support the issue/amendment, will they let it go forward?
  12. Do you have a clear and compelling case to support your position?
  13. Do you have independent experts validating your position?
  14. Do you have the information / studies available at the right time?
  15. Do you have a list of the 250 people in Europe and their contacts who will decide your issue?
  16. Do you know how they stand on your issue?
  17. Do you have access to these people in most (although not necessarily) all Member States
  18. Do you champions and poster childs who will be the face of your campaign?
  19. Do you have a budget for your campaign? Is the budget enough?
  20. Do you have a campaign plan to get you from where you are to where you want to be
  21. Do you have material to roll out in your campaign?
  22. Do you material that will persuade only your natural political allies or do you have a material to bring about a winning coalition?
  23. Do you have people who can persuade key decision makers or do they just antagonise the key decision makers?
  24. Can you make your issue interesting enough that key people will back it even if there is no direct gain for them?
  25. Does the timetable align? Can you get the Commission to table your proposal in the Annual Work Programme (October) or outside?
  26. Do you have a good working relationship with the right media and think tanks so your issue can be taken up?
  27. Do you already have a two pager in your filing cabinet and an elvator pitch to hand over if you get called up at the last moment?

 

The fewer things you can say yes today on this list , the less chance you have of getting what you want.

 

The European Parliament’s Environment Committee Scrutiny of Delegated Legislation in 2016 – A review

This is a follow update of my review of the work of the Environment Committee’s scrutinising of delegated legislation in 2015. You can find that piece here.

 

Method

I have reviewed the agenda of each meeting of the Environment Committee in 2016. For each challenge to a delegated legislative proposal,  I have tracked the success at the Committee and Plenary (via Vote Watch) stage.

I will update this blog when the Commission and European Parliament publish their annual activity reports.

Insights

Summary of Challenges by the Environment Committee in 2016

In 2016, the Environment Committee were notified of the following measures (these numbers need to be validated – there is ):

  • 1521 Implementing Acts
  • 27 Delegated Acts
  • 366 RPS – Regulatory Procedures with Scrutiny measures

There is significant difference in the numbers reported on the Commission’s website. It reports(see here) 138 delegated acts in 2016 overall, 1494 implementing acts with committee control (comitology) and 123 RPS measures.

The European Parliament Environment Committee met 20 times in 2016. At 9 meetings there were 15 objections:

  • 4 objections against pesticides
  • 2 for insecticides
  • 7 GMOs
  • 4 regarding food products.

Even though the Environment Committee is active in scrutinizing the Commission’s delegated legislative output, the percentage of proposals they call in to challenge is very low. 15 objections out of 1914 proposed measures is a challenge rate of 0.7%. The idea that Environment Committee is “activist” on their scrutiny of comitology proposals is not borne out by the data.

1  objection amounted to a veto (see baby food – challenge 15).

The EP only has an effective veto on RPS measures and Delegated Acts. As most proposed measures are Implementing Acts, with the Parliament being unable to block a proposal, the Parliament have evolved their tactics. The glyphosate case showed the EP acting early  to inform the Member State Committee before hand. This challenge led to, or was part of the reasons,  that led to European Commission changing their original 15 years renewal to an 18 months technical extension with other conditions on use attached.  The challenges against GMOs (implementing acts) led to no  changes to the measures.

For delegated legislation,in all likelihood, whatever the Commission put out the door, will be adopted. Challenges are noticeable because they are so rare, successful challenges rarer.

In 2016, the Environment Committee focussed on a few areas: GMO, pesticides, and baby food.  These are all sensitive areas of public policy so it is not a surprise that they receive scrutiny. In 2015, challenges also concerned other hazardous substances and broader food issues.

The EPP have little success in blocking proposals they have not supported in the Environment Committee. Rather, the decisive step appears to be when the S&D splits at the margins.

Resolutions launched by the ENF do not pass the Committee stage.

Single MEP initiatives do not have a good track record of success.

Many resolutions that succeed are launched as cross party efforts at the Committee stage and that coalition is kept going in the plenary.

Meetings in 2016

 

Challenge 1: Meeting  7 November 2016, 15.00 – 16.15. Item 7:  Objection pursuant to Rule 106 : Renewing the approval of the active substance bentazone

Rapporteur: Pavel Poc (Czech/S&D)

Challenge: Implementing Act

Committee resolution here.

Decision in Committee: For 30,  Against  21, Abstention 1.

Plenary Vote Watch summary

Date of vote: 23.11.2016

Resolution adopted here

Vote in Plenary:  For 361, Against 289, Abstentions 28

Threshold:  326

Coalition:  GUE, Greens, S&D, ALDE, EFFD, ENF

Vote Watch Visual Summary


 

 

Voting by Group Summary

 

 

 Challenge 2:  Monday 3 October 2016 – Monday 3 October 2016;  Item 6: Objection pursuant to Rule 106: Placing on the market for cultivation of genetically modified maize Bt11 (SYN-BTØ11-1) seeds

Co-Rapporteurs: Bart Staes (Belgium/ Greens/EFA), Guillaume Balas (France/S&D (, Lynn Boylan (Ireland/GUE/NGL), Eleonora Evi (Italy/EFDD) Sirpa Pietikäinen (Finland/EPP).

Committee resolution here

Decision in Committee Adopted: In favour: 37; Against: 18; abstention(s): 1.

Plenary Vote Watch Summary

Date of Vote: 6.10.2017

Resolution adopted here

Vote in Plenary: For 360, Against 190, Abstentions 35

Threshold: 289

Coalition:  GUE, Greens, S&D, ALDE, EFFD, ENF

Vote Watch Visual Summary

Vote by Group Summary

 

 

Challenge 3:  Monday 3 October 2016 – Monday 3 October 2016: Item 7. Objection pursuant to Rule 106: Placing on the market for cultivation of genetically modified maize 1507 (DAS-Ø15Ø7-1) seeds

Co-Rapporteurs: Bart Sates (Belgium/ Greens/EFA), Guillaume Balas (France/S&D (, Lynn Boylan (Ireland/GUE/NGL), Eleonora Evi (Italy/EFDD) Sirpa Pietikäinen (Finland/EPP).

Committee resolution here

Decision in Committee. Adopted: In favour: 39; Against: 17; Abstention(s): 0.

Plenary Vote Watch summary

Date: 6.10.2016

Resolution adopted here

Vote in Plenary: For 375; Against 193;Abstentions 36

Coalition:  GUE, Greens, S&D, ECR, EFFD, ENF

Vote watch visual

 

Vote by Group Summary

 

 

Challenge 4:  Monday 3 October 2016 – Monday 3 October 2016Objection pursuant to Rule 106: Renewing the authorization for the placing on the market for cultivation of genetically modified maize MON 810 (MON- ØØ81Ø-6) seeds

Co-Rapporteurs: Bart Staes (Belgium/ Greens/EFA), Guillaume Balas (France/S&D), Lynn Boylan (Ireland/GUE/NGL), Eleonora Evi (Italy/EFDD) Sirpa Pietikäinen (Finland/EPP).

Committee  resolution here
Decision in Committee. Adopted: For: 37; Against: 19; abstention(s): 0.

Plenary Vote Watch summary here

Date of vote: 06.10.2016

Resolution adopted here.

Vote in Plenary: For 372; Against 181; Abstentions: 46

Threshold:277

Coalition: GUE, Greens, S&D, ECR, EFFD, ENF

Vote Watch Summary

 

Vote by Group Summary

 

Challenge 5:  Monday 3 October 2016 – Monday 3 October 2016Objection pursuant to Rule 106: Placing on the market of products containing, consisting of, or produced from genetically modified cotton 281-24-236 × 3006- 210-23 × MON 88913 (DAS-24236-5×DAS-21Ø23-5×MON-88913-8)

Co-Rapporteurs: Bart Sates, Guillaume Balas, Lynn Boylan, Eleonora Evi Sirpa Pietikäinen.

Committee resolution here

Decision in Committee: For: 39; Against: 17;

Plenary Vote Watch summary here

Date of vote: 6.10.2016

Resolution adopted here

Vote: For 384, Against 169, Abstentions 39.

Threshold: 277

Coalition: GUE, Greens, S&D, ALDE, EFFD, ENF

Vote Watch Summary

Vote by Group Summary

 

Challenge 6:  Monday 3 October 2016 – Monday 3 October 2016. Item 10 Objection pursuant to Rule 106: Renewing the authorisation for the placing on the market of genetically modified maize MON 810 (MON-ØØ81Ø-6) products

Co-Rapporteurs: Bart Staes, Guillaume Balas, Lynn Boylan, Eleonora Evi Sirpa Pietikäinen.

Committee resolution here

Decision in Committee. For: 30,  Against: 19; abstention(s): 0.

Plenary Vote Watch summary here

Date of vote: 6.10.2016

Resolution adopted here

Vote: For 371, Against 189, Abstentions 40.

Threshold: 281

Coalition: GUE, Greens, S&D,  EFFD, ENF

Vote Watch Summary

 

 

 

Vote by Group Summary

 

 

Challenge 6: DRAFT AGENDA – Monday 11 July 2016 – Tuesday 12 July 2016 Item 10Objection pursuant to Rule 106: extension of the approval period of glyphosate

Rapporteur: Merja Kyllönen (GUE/NGL

Adoption of motion for Resolution

Decision in Committee: Rejected. For: 9; Against: 28; abstention(s): 22.

 

Challenge 7. DRAFT AGENDA – Tuesday 21 June 2016 – Tuesday 21 June 2016. Item 8: Objection pursuant to Rule 106: Maximum residue levels for thiacloprid in or on certain products

Co-rapportuer: Sylvie Goddyn (ENF)

Decision in Committee: rejected: For: 7, Against: 41, Abstentions: 1

 

Challenge 8. DRAFT AGENDA – Wednesday 15 June 2016 – Thursday 16 June 2016. Item 6: Objection pursuant to Rule 106: Health claims on caffeine (Rule 106(2))

 

Rapporteur: Christel Schaldemose (S&D)

Committee Resolution here

Decision in Committee.  Adopted. For: 57; Against: 0; Abstention(s):0

Plenary Vote Watch summary

Date: 07.07.2016

Resolution voted on  here

Defeated: For 257, Against 339, Abstenstions 50

Threshold 259

Coalition:  EPP, ECR,ENF

Vote watch summary

 

Voting by Group Summary

 

 

 

Challenge 9. DRAFT AGENDA – Monday 23 May 2016 – Tuesday 24 May 2016. Item 6: Objection pursuant to Rule 106: placing on the market of a genetically modified carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus L., line SHD-27531-4)

Co-Rapporteurs: Bart Staes, Lynn Boylan, Guillaume Balas. Adoption of motion for a resolution

Committee Resolution here

Decision: Adopted: Yes: 39; Against: 23; Abstention(s): 1.

Plenary Vote Watch summary

Date: 08.06.2016

Resolution adopted here.

For 430, Against 189, Abstentions 33

Threshold 310

Coalition:  GUE, Greens, S&D, EFFD, ENF

Vote watch Summary

 

Voting by Group Summary

 

 

Challenge 10. DRAFT AGENDA – Monday 23 May 2016 – Tuesday 24 May 2016. Item 14: Objection pursuant to Rule 106: authorisation of GMO maize Bt11 x MIR162 x MIR604 x GA21

Co-Rapporteurs: Bart Staes, Lynn Boylan, Guillaume Balas.

Committee Resolution here.

Decision: Adopted:For: 39; Against: 24; Abstention(s): 0.

Plenary Vote Watch Summary

Date of vote: 8.06.2016

Vote in Plenary:For: 426; Against: 202; Abstensions: 33

Threshold: 315

Coalition: GUE, Greens, S&D, EFFD, ENF

Vote Watch Summary

Group Summary

 

Challenge 11. DRAFT AGENDA – Monday 21 March 2016 – Tuesday 22 March 2016. Item 5: Objection pursuant to Rule 106: renewal of the approval of the active substance glyphosate

Co-Rapporteurs: Pavel Poc, Kateřina Konečná, Bas Eickhout, Piernicola Pedicini, Mark Demesmaeker, Sirpa Pietikäinen, Frédérique Ries

Committee Resolution here.

Decision in Committee. Adopted. For: 38; Against: 6; Abstention(s): 18

Plenary Vote Watch Summary

Date of vote: 13.04.2016

Resolution adopted here.

Vote in Plenary: For 396; Against 299 ;Abstenstions 6

Threshold: 348

Coalition:GUE, Greens, S&D, ALDE, ENF

Vote Watch Summary

 

Group Summary

 

Challenge 12. DRAFT AGENDA – Monday 21 March 2016 – Tuesday 22 March 2016. Item 12: Objection pursuant to Rule 106: renewal of the approval of the active substance glyphosate

Rapporteur: Mireille D’Ornano (ENF)

Committee Decision: Resolution Fell (see above challenge 11).

 

Challenge 13. Agenda Thursday 14 January 2016. Item 5: Objection pursuant to Rule 105: infant and follow-on formula

Rapporteur: Keith Taylor (Green/UK)

Committee resolution here

Decision in Committee: For 16; Against: 47; Abstention(s): 0

 

Challenge 14. Agenda Thursday 14 January 2016. Item 6: Objection pursuant to Rule 105: food for special medical purposes

Committee resolution here

Decision in Committee: 17; against: 46; abstention(s): 0

 

Challenge 15. Agenda Thursday 14 January 2016. Item 7.  Objection pursuant to Rule 105: processed cereal-based food and baby food

Rapporteur: Keith Taylor (Green/UK)

Committee resolution here

Decision in Committee: For: 35; Against: 28; Abstention(s): 0

Plenary Vote Watch Summary

Date of Vote: 20.01.2016

Resolution adopted here

Vote in Plenary: For: 393; Against 305; Abstenstions:  12

Threshold: 376

Vote Watch Summary

Group Summary