EU Better Regulation in 10 easy Charts & Checklists


The current guidelines, 19.5.2015, are here. They are 91 pages long.  They are supported by a Toolbox (here) of 414 pages. This rule book has been updated. It has been transmitted to the European Parliament and Council. It is now  90 pages of detailed guidelines and supported by a 500 page Toolbox.

I would recommend that you read this Manual. But, in case you don’t want to, I have listed some of the most useful checklists and charts.

In Praise of Better Regulation 

I have been an isolated supporter of ‘Better Regulation’. I think it is the most revolutionary and positive action of the Juncker Commission.

There is a virtue in the certainty in the preparation and development of policy and law. Bruno Leoni, in Freedom and the Law, writes about the importance of officials discretion being limited by clear rules..

The Guidelines provide a clear set of rules that any official can follow. The Guidelines are so clearly written so there should be no reason why they are not followed.

I welcome two main aspects of the Guidelines.

First, by codifying good practice it limits administrative discretion in developing new rules. It places weaker restraints on the exercise of political discretion by Commissioners, and very few on elected MEPs or Member States. Politicians and governments, as a broad class, are reluctant to have their hands tied, let alone follow basic good practice.

Second, it opens up European law making to public scrutiny. Now there is a lot of scrutiny. I am not sure how many people login into to it. I check it out every week. You can find it here.


Better Regulation is about ‘designing EU policies and laws so that they achieve their objects at minimum costs. …. It is a way of working to ensure that political decisions are prepared in an open, tranpsranet manner, informed by the best available evidence and backed by the comprehensive involvement of stakeholders’. Why anyone could be against this is beyond me, but there are many who are.


When to follow and not

Officials have to follow the steps laid out in the Guidelines.  The Toolbox provides additional guidance.  The Toolbox is only binding if “expressly stated”.

There are times when the Guidelines may be by-passed. These include:

  •  social partner agreements (see Art.155 Treaty),
  • a political imperative to move ahead quickly,
  • an emergeny,
  • specific deadlines in legislation, or
  • a need to respect security related or confidential information

If officials want to apply an exception they need to ask for this at:

  1. When the initiative is getting political validation
  2. Permission frm the Secretary-General and First Vice-President


The Guidelines are meant to be read by all ‘officials involved in regulatory activities.’ It would be interesting to know how many have.

The greatest weakness to Better Regulation is political will and time at the very highest levels of the Commission to follow and implement it. A First Vice-President who is clearly so busy and active must have little time to pick political fights with his fellow Commissioners and high ranking officials who would rather pre-determine the policy outcome from the very start than go through an exercise that may deliver results they do not like.


Key Checklists and Charts

Below I have gone through the new Guidelines and Toolbox and pulled out the 10 most useful charts and checklists.


  1. When is Political Validation Required?

See: Box 2. Scoping, political validation and interservice work

• Political validation is required to move beyond the informal consideration of a

possible initiative and to start the substantive prepatory work including engagement

with stakeholders.

• The level of political validation depends on the nature and importance of the inititiave.

“Major initiatives” should, in principle, be entered into Decide at least 12 months

prior to adoption by the College. They must be validated by the lead Commissioner,

relevant Vice-President and the First Vice-President before being accepted to be

included into the Commissions’ planning. “Other initiatives” should be validated by

the lead Commissioner or by the Director-General of the lead DG as appropriate.

• Political validation must be understood as giving the green light to start the

substantive preparatory work. It should not be interpreted as a decision on a particular

initiative or course of action that prejudges the outcome of any impact assessment

process, stakeholder consultation or later political discussion in the College.

• For major initiatives and for evaluations (including fitness checks), once political

validation is granted, roadmaps or inception impact assessments must be finalised

and published as quickly as possible. They explain to external stakeholders what the

Commission is considering and allow them to provide early feedback.

• Roadmaps are used for initiatives which do not require an impact assessment. The

reasons justifying the absence of an impact assessment will be included.

• Inception impact assessments are used for initiatives subject to an impact

assessment. These set out in greater detail the description of the problem, issues

related to subsidiarity, the policy objectives and options as well as the likely impacts

of each option.

• A roadmap is prepared for each evaluation or fitness check. This specifies the

context, scope and purpose of the evaluation and outlines the proposed approach.

• All roadmaps (including for evaluations and fitness checks) and inception impact

assessments are published by the Secretariat-General on the Commission’s website12

so that citizens and stakeholders are informed and can provide initial feedback

(including data and information they may possess) on all aspects of the intended

initiative and where applicable its impact assessment.

• Evaluations, impact assessments, stakeholder consultations, policy proposals and

implementation plans must be discussed collectively by the services13 within an

interservice group. It is important that all services with an interest participate

actively in the interservice work from the outset, particularly those DGs with specific

expertise (e.g. competitiveness and innovation, SME impacts, economic, social

impacts, environmental impacts and scientific/analytical methods).

• The launch of the interservice consultation must be agreed politically (in a similar way

to the validation of new initiatives). In addition, where an initiative is supported by an

impact assessment, a positive opinion of the Regulatory Scrutiny Board is required in

order for the initiative to be presented to the Commission for decision.

2. Who validates for what & the  implications 


3. The Planning and Validation Process – A schedule 


4.  The Key Questions an Evaluation Must Answer


1. What is the current situation?

2. How effective has the EU intervention been?

3. How efficient has the EU intervention been?

4. How relevant is the EU intervention?

5. How coherent is the EU intervention internally and with other (EU) actions?


5. Key Timelines for Public Consultation


6. What documents go to the Regulatory Scrutiny Board?


6.1 Impact Assessment


Note signed by the Director General of the lead DG addressed to the chair of the RSB.

 Draft IA report (SWD).

 IA summary sheet accompanying the IA report (SWD).

 Minutes of the meeting of interservice group that has been preparing the IA report immediately prior to submission of the IA report to the RSB.

 Links to where important underlying reports or studies can be found which underpin the IA report.

 Underlying evaluation SWD, if this evaluation has not been scrutinised separately by the RSB.



 The lead DG should reserve a slot at a future meeting of the RSB at which the IA report will be discussed. In general, the slot should be reserved at least 3 months before the RSB meeting.

 This slot should reflect the envisaged timing of the political initiative, the time needed to adapt the IA report in light of the Board’s opinion(s) and the time needed to complete a formal interservice consultation and formal adoption by the College.

 The draft IA report should be submitted to the RSB at least 4 weeks before the RSB meeting where the draft IA report will be discussed.

 In a few exceptional cases, the RSB may decide that the draft impact assessment report does not need to be discussed at a formal meeting of the Board but can be dealt with via written procedure. This can only be decided on a case-by-case basis once the draft IA report has been submitted to the RSB and will depend on the quality and lack of complexity of the case at hand.



 Where the RSB issues a negative opinion, the lead DG will have to incorporate the Board’s recommendations into a revised IA report, to discuss those changes with the ISG and to submit a revised report to the RSB.

 The RSB will aim to issue a revised opinion within 4 weeks following resubmission. In most cases, the opinion will be issued following a written procedure. However, the RSB may wish to hear the lead DG again in a meeting. In such cases, the RSB secretariat will organise an appropriate slot in consultation with the lead DG.


7.  Fitness Checks and Evaulations Secletced for Scrutiny by the RSB


Note signed by the Director General of the lead DG addressed to the Chair of the RSB.

 Draft evaluation SWD/fitness check report (SWD).

 Executive summary of the evaluation SWD or fitness check report.

 Minutes of the meeting of interservice group that has been preparing the evaluation report immediately prior to submission of the draft evaluation report to the RSB.

 Quality assessment discussed and agreed by the ISG.

 Any report prepared by consultants (where relevant).



The lead DG should reserve a slot at a future meeting of the RSB at which the evaluation/fitness check report will be discussed. In general, the slot should be reserved at least 3 months before the RSB meeting.

 In line with the “evaluate first” principle, the fitness check report or evaluation SWD should usually be reviewed by the RSB ahead of the submission of the corresponding impact assessment.

 The draft evaluation/fitness check report should be submitted to the RSB at least 4 weeks before the RSB meeting that will discuss the draft evaluation SWD or fitness check report.

 In a few exceptional cases, the RSB may decide that the draft evaluation report does not need to be discussed at a formal meeting of the Board but can be dealt with via written procedure. This can only be decided on a case-by-case basis once the draft evaluation SWD or fitness check report has been submitted to the RSB and will depend on the quality and lack of complexity of the case at hand.


Follow up

The lead DG is expected to incorporate the Board’s recommendations into a revised fitness check report or evaluation SWD and to discuss the changes with the relevant ISG.

 A negative opinion does not prevent the launch of an interservice consultation on the fitness check report or evaluation SWD. However, the lead DG may wish to submit a revised SWD or report to the RSB. In such cases, the Board will aim to issue an opinion within 4 weeks usually by written procedure. In some cases, the lead DG may be invited to a meeting with the RSB which will be


8. Initiatives for which the need for an IA should be assessed

  1. New legal acts
Revision of existing legal acts
Recasts of existing legal acts
Non-technical repeal of existing legal acts77
Delegated acts (Art. 290 TFEU)
Implementation measures (Art. 291 TFEU)
Transposition of international agreement into EU law78
White papers
Policy communications
Action Plans
Recommendations for the negotiation of international agreements.
Social partner agreements pursuant to Articles 154-155 TFEU79.
Financial programmes (i.e. all basic acts for spending programmes and financial instruments)


9. Initiatives for which no automatic need for an Impact Assessment



9.2. Do you need an Impact Assessment when an EU Agency is Involved?


10.  Key Steps ad Requirements for an Impact Assessment



10.2. Process Chart for the the typical Impact Assessment


The Missing Link: The Policy Entrepreneur

The Missing Link: The Policy Entrepreneur

When you think of the key actors in making laws, most people will mention:

Ministers, Civil Servants, elected Politicians, Political Advisers, Political Staffers, Academics, Consultants, Firms, Lobbyists, Lawyers, the Media, Public Opinion, NGOs, Trade Unions, Think Tanks and Trade Associations.


The Policy Entrepreneur

John W. Kingdom, in his classic “Agenda, Alternatives and Public Policies”, mentions a special class “the policy entrepreneur”.
The policy entrepreneur is hardly discussed in academic literature . It is like they don’t exist.  These are the people who really make things happen. “These are the people who make sure that problems, policies and politics join together at the right time. Only if these three specifics are in alignment can the item be placed on the decision agenda (see p.179)”.

This “confluence of streams”, “things coming together at the same time” does not usually happen by accident. It happens because of policy entrepreneurs. They are “advocates who are willing to invest their resources – time, energy, reputation, money – to return for anticipated future gain.”

They ‘policy entrepreneur’ is unlikely to have that title.  They can be a lawyer, lobbyist, career civil servant, minister.

In Kingdom’s study, he assessed that in 15 out of 23 case studies their role was important to very important.


Who is the policy entrepreneur

I have worked with them.  I learned a lot from them. You’ll know them when you meet them.  Without them, your cause is doomed. You’ll miss the real opportunity to advance your interest, and be blind to what is really happening. In fact, as so very few people know this pivotal position exists, they will be content by not know what is really happening.

Every piece of legislation I have worked on over 21 years has had this individual. They were usually in the background. They did not have a name badge announcing who they were. The people who counted just gravitated to them for advice.  All of them were real experts. They also had the rare gift to communicate to all the players. They were not geniuses, but they all had an uncanny ability to bring the right people together at the right time to secure the right solution.

Kingdom identifies some of the qualities the policy entrepreneur has. This will help you know who they are:

  • ‘They will be listened to by the people who count either because:
    • (1) their expertise,
    • (2) an ability to speak for others, or
    • (3) an authoritative decision-making position’.
    • Some have all 3.
  • They are ‘known for their political connections or negotiating skills’.
  • Their vital ingredient is their ‘persistence’. ‘These are the people who spend a great deal of time giving talks, writing position papers, drafting bills, testifying, having lunch.’ Persistence is the vital ingredient.
  • They lie in wait for a window of opportunity to open.
  • Hook solutions to problems, proposals to political momentum, and political events to the political stream.

Put simply, without the political entrepreneur, the linking of the streams may not take place.  They push the door open at just the right moment.  ‘Policy enterprises try to make linkages far before windows open so they can bring a prepacked combination of solution, problem, and political momentum to the window when it does open.’


How often does the window open up?

My gut tells me every 10 years. Sometimes, I have seen it open up more often. This is based on my own experience.

It is not hard to plan when there is a big sign telling you when things are going to start. First, a lot of European legislation has review clauses. I have found that going in early, framing the debate and solutions a few years out from a mid-term review, can set things up. Second,   the Commission’s Annual Work Programme is an obvious opportunity. This will be firmed up by the end of the summer, outlined on 13 September during the State of the Union, and published on 24 October. Third, after that, work will start for the Work Programme of the next Commission, set to come into office on 1 November, 2019.  The key opportunities are often staring people in the face.

Bringing the streams together

I think the opportunities to change laws should not be taken lightly. This is what should be done if you want to win:

  • You would the tee thinking up, have the reports written, draft bill in hands, and get a flow of think tanks discussion your issue, and put it higher up the policy agenda.
  • You would target the few people in Europe who are taking the key decision on your issue and those who are influencing that. You are not the person to leave that to chance.
  • Too many people think this all happens by chance. If telepathy worked you would use it. Instead, you would go and speak to many of them, ask them how they see things, and give them constructive solutions. Every time I have done this, I find the same ideas repeated back to you in the proposal.


What does this all cost?

Can this all be engineered. It can.  There are no guarantees it will work. Anyone who tells you there is sure thing should return to the snake-oil salesman academy.

It will take a commitment of 10 years. If you, and your funders, are not prepared for the long term, it is better not to start.

I conservatively estimate that a serious effort costs around €150k to €500K a year.  €150K for staff costs and the rest for studies/events, you may need. Again, it is best to be funded up front for the duration.

Some people will think this is a lot of money. I disagree. If you really want to win, these are the basic commitments.

These figures are realistic. I have cross checked this with cases I have directly worked on and examples I know about.

Whilst that may seem a lot, it’s a lot less than many organisations will pay in the passage of legislation. This is despite once the proposal is out the door of the Commission, most organisations are only going to have at best marginal, if any, influence.

I am also reminded that a few € million is a lot less than the bitter taste of defeat.

Further Reading

John W. Kingdom in his classic “Agenda, Alternatives and Public Policies”.


Brussels Behind Closed Doors

What can a 20 year documentary teach you about making laws

What can a 20 year documentary teach you about making laws

In 1997, I had the honour to work for British Labour MEP, Anita Pollack.   Anita gave me the chance to help pass my first piece of EU environmental legislation.  Anita helped steer through a ground-breaking piece of air quality legislation for the then EU 15.

I learned a lot. I have worked on a lot more environmental and fisheries legislation since.

I decided to mark the 20 years since the adoption of the law to re-watch a UK Channel 4 documentary that followed the directive’s passage. This fly on the wall documentary is uncannily accurate. Today, it catches how, even today, EU laws are developed, negotiated, and agreed. There has not been a programme like it since.

Today, many of the key players involved in the process have retired. Some are still active.

Council Directive relating to limit values for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and oxides of nitrogen, particulate matter and lead in ambient air (link) has now been updated. It met some of targets. Air pollution still harms our health in some countries.

What is striking is that even though a lot has changed, many things remain unchanged.

What struck me is that in over 20 years, is that  the reasons given to not act, or to wait before acting, are basically the same. The posturing that economic Armageddon will occur if environmental standards are improved are still too often recited like ancient holy recitals.  Many countries oppose any measures that costs anything to implement.

I have listed a set of personal observations drawn from 3 episodes.

1-15 are things that have changed. 15-65 are as common today as they were 20 years ago.



  1. Political agreement was secured in then record time. It took just 3 years for the law to be developed to final adoption.
  2. In 1997, was the height of the UK’s political influence in the EU under PM Blair. Germany allied with their natural UK ally.
  3. The UK Labour Group held 62 of the UK’s 87 seats.
  4. The S&D Group were the largest group in the EP.
  5. This was an EU of 15 progressive Member States. Austria, Finland and Sweden had recently joined on 1st January 1995.
  6. The UK held the EU Presidency from 1 January to 30 June 1997. Today, the UK skipped their Presidency as they prepare to the leave the EU.
  7. Ken Collins (S&D/UK) was the dominant chair of the Environment Committee. This Scot ruled the Committee with an iron will.
  8. The Environment Committee was the most active legislative committee in the EP. With 45 members only the Foreign Affairs (53), Agriculture (46) and Economic and Monetary (52) were more, but they did not have to trouble themselves with legislating.
  9. I see this time as environment policy’s high-water market. The big hitters of Svend Auken, Denmark’s Minister for the Environment and Energy, and even Ms. Angela Merkel, Germany’s Minister of the Environment (link),  were in office.
  10. The EP was coming of political age. Jacques Santer’s Commission was being pushed out because of wrong doing by French Commissioner Cresson on 15 March 1999.
  11. Ritt Bjerregaard (Denmark/S&D) served as the Environment Commissioner. She was a powerful and determined progressive political player who relished her role.
  12. She was one of the 20 Commissioner. This was a time when 5 large countries got 2 seats and the remaining 15 got 1.
  13. The Channel 4 documentary was the first fly on the wall documentary about the EU passes laws. I don’t think it has been repeated.
  14. Britain showed environmental leadership. A British Presidency secured a British official’s drafted text, steered through by a British MEP.
  15. DG 11/ENV brought forward an annual slew of ambitious legislative proposals
  16. People sometimes forget the heroic task of bringing together quarrelsome families together. It is a wonder to see.
  17. The system is designed on consensus. As soon as a proposal out the door of the Commission, the point of destination is agreement. The point of arrival is never too far from DG Environment’s original intent.
  18. The best chance to influence a Commission’s proposal is before it is issued.
  19. Most lobbyists – NGOs and industry – and Member States step in too late in the day. They get to tinker at the margins.
  20. The UK Mission to the EU (Perm Reps), UKREP, were then still getting used to Labour MEPs. We had been so long out of power for so long they simply never returned any calls. Many Perm Reps today still lack the political touch with their MEPs.
  21. Air pollution is still a problem today.
  22. Today, we know a lot more about Particulate Matter today than we did then. We were not precautionary enough. The real harmful particulate, the ultra-small PM 2.5, were left untouched. The science indicated it was the problem but we not sure enough. We ignored it for a few years. We came back to target it.
  23. Poor Air pollution makes our health worse. It fills up hospitals and spurs death rates upwards. Today, we better understand why.
  24. The Presidency needs to be impartial and not promote their own national interest during their 6 months chairmanship. Some countries find this etiquette hard to follow.
  25. Air pollution is a serious problem in many cities in the summer. Fate intervened in plenary vote in Strasbourg and set off air pollution alerts. These political stunts continue to help win big votes. I really did not create that event.
  26. Voting lists for different national Party groups vary. You need to follow them. Some countries set the votes for their MEPs.
  27. Industry kept submitting their recommendations after the voting lists had been prepared.
  28. The Group Rapporteur writes out the voting lists and many groups are very loyal in following Group voting. If you don’t get in early, you are not going have much impact.
  29. DG ENV has been chronically understaffed for decades. 20 years it dealt with a lot of new proposals. Today, few new laws come from them.
  30. The speaking points  and the language they use from  industry and NGO lobbyists seems unchanged in 20 years. It had no cross-party influence then. Why so few people have changed their game plan from a 20-year losing streak is strange.
  31. Cross party and cross-country voting coalitions work best. In 1997, Northern Member States voted against the South (which included France).
  32. Legislation is all about winning votes and the person with the most votes wins. This is the most fundamental law and too many people just know it, or at least ignore it.
  33. Taking action to help the public’s health is not cheap – €5 billion at the time – but it is cost effective.
  34. Most Governments dislike the idea of informing their own people about things. Public information on air pollution gets people asking for change. It actually bring about change. Many Member States air quality machines were defective and under-reported the real state of air pollution.
  35. If you want to avoid  an issue, just adopt a “review clause”.
  36. Spain, Greece and France all fought against binding air pollution limits back in 1997.
  37. Bringing publicity into legislation makes it a lot more difficult for politicians and civil servants to object.
  38. If your Political Group is strong in the EP, you can steamroller your position through the EP. But, you have to have the votes.
  39. The Chair of the Environment Committee’s  key power is where he puts your item on the agenda. Ken Collins put Anita Pollack’s work at the top of the agenda.  We got to take the file through the Parliament in record time.
  40. A lot of interests against the proposal were just to slow keeping up.
  41. Turning up to meetings with expensive watches on to Social Democrat MEP and talking about “jobs and growth” is a sure way of getting them to reject your position.
  42. Very few politicians beyond the right of the EPP ever bought the “jobs & growth” line in 1997. I don’t think much has changed in 20 years.
  43. Political hard work by a MEP in Brussels is likely to be unrecognised back home by the Party or constituents. Anita Pollack was not re-elected in 1999.
  44. Back home is where political power comes from and remains.
  45. The Member States in 1997 was more powerful than it is today, but it is still the ultimate centre of power.
  46. The Council has and always likely will represent the lions of national self-interest.
  47. The best way to influence National Ministers is back home in their capitals and ideally in their constituency.
  48. Spain did not think the science was clear. They argued that no action should be taken until the science is clear. The real reason for blocking was the cost. When scientific uncertainty is raised experienced players know the likely real reason is money.
  49. Labour veteran politician, the late Michael Meacher, made the key decisions for the UK. Civil servants’ advise and elected politicians decide. They really do.
  50. There is a lot of paper of work.
  51. The key skill is the ability to write clear, precise and concise briefings. Very few people can. Those who can, tend to win more votes.
  52. Back in 1997, most of the negotiations took place over the phone and email. Meetings are there to shake hands on a compromise. Not much has changed.
  53. The Presidency and Commission work very closely together to secure a deal.
  54. The Presidency’s role is to secure a compromise and works to get that.
  55. The Environment Attaches are often friends. When you spend 3 days a week with a group of people, you are likely to become friends with them. Compromise is actively sought.
  56. Member States officials are there to keep the Commission in check.
  57. The EP see their job to scrutinise the Commission, and often to re-table the amendments DG ENV has lost in inter-service consultation
  58. If you don’t do compromise, you need to leave Brussels.
  59. If you are a nomad,  become a MEP. You live from a suitcase in Brussels and your constituency (when the real work starts). Everyone, but French MEPs,  dislike Strasbourg. The real work is done in Brussels.
  60. The UK, whatever Party in power, has always taken a business friendly and pragmatic approach
  61. Scientific expertise is listened to but is seen by many politicians as too cautious. The memory of the WHO calling out BSE wrongly made many MEPs seeing the WHO’s standards as too cautious.Today, scientists are listened to, but politicians decide. It has been like that for thousands of year.
  62. Expert groups of scientist make compromises. It is clear that a Risk Assessment seems to be an art and not a science.
  63. Law making at times looks a like a steamroller driver in a hurry.
  64. Bringing public information into legislation makes it a lot more difficult for politicians and civil servants to object. National governments know this and tend to fight public information.
  65. The best way to make your position seem very reasonable is to get a Swedish MEP to say “in Sweden, we have a system, and it works”. I had the fun job of provoking a very nice Swedish MEP to say this in the Environment Committee one day. All of a sudden, people who we knew were going to vote against us, backed us. Politicians back ambition but not dreams.



How a NGO can win a campaign in Brussels

I have just re-watched a Channel 4 fly on the wall documentary, “Brussels behind closed doors”. It is a documentary about how an EU directive on air quality was adopted.

I know about this is obscure documentary because I worked for the Rapporteur, Anita Pollack MEP, on the adoption of this legislation. I learned a lot. For the next 20 years I have found myself working on legislation or campaigning to influence that legislation.

Re-watching got me thinking to  the best ways to influence EU policy.

Below, I have listed 26 points that I think a NGO would use if they really wanted to win.


  1. Have the proposal on the back of your pocket

The first thing you need is the draft law, along with the explanatory memorandum and supporting evidence, in your back pocket.

If you don’t have this, it is evidence that you really do not know what you want. If you can’t show an interested legislator at a moment’s notice what you want, in how the law or policy should look like, you are a not being serious. You are bystander to events and not an instigator.


  1. Be patient, wait for events

Good things take time to come about. I have shopped around policy solutions when the interest on the issue was too low. But, legislation has a habit of being tabled because of unforeseen events.

When your issue pops up in the political headlines and garners interest, this is your moment to move.  Seize the opportunity.


  1. Have the experts with you

Important public policy decisions are not made on the whim. There are a lot of checks and balances built in.

If you want to move things forward, you are going to have to have a group of select experts lined up to support you.

You are likely to have on staff, or experts on retainer, or at least some of the leading minds from academia and think tanks on speed dial. They will be ready to explain the supporting volumes of reports and studies that you have commissioned to support your case.

  1. Respond to the agenda

Issues on the political agenda come and go. They also return.  Your job is to respond to them and catch the wind when it blows in your direction.

You can work tirelessly on an issue for decades, but if you miss the opportunity of new found interest from a Commissioner, minister, or politician you will have to wait another decade in the political wilderness.

  1. Use celebrities

There is something about a photoshoot of a naked Greta Saatchi holding a cod that grabs interest.  I don’t understand why, but I know that all of sudden a lot of people become interested in the issue and very sympathetic to you.

There is a reason to use celebrities. They help your cause.


  1. Wear a tie and jacket

People have prejudices. It is helpful at times to confound them.

I am perplexed that even today a lot of people think that a NGOs campaigner wears a horse hair shirt to work. I always had that the uniform of the US west coast: chinos, shirt and sports jacket. For senior level meetings, a tie can be added.


  1. Know the rules of the game

If you don’t know how the fundamental processes for the adoption of legislation, I think it makes sense to seek another career.

I guesstimate that there are around 40 key processes for EU law. I would add another 10 for certain fields.

Strangely, most people are not aware of them. Even a lot of legislators and regulators are not aware of them. This is not for you. You will have a good grasp of the procedures you are dealing with.


  1. Know the 500, 250, 25 key players

You are going to have a rolodex of key people in Europe who decide and influence your issue. This is going to be made up of Ministers, their advisers, Commissioners,  Cabinet leads, civil servants, MEPs, MPs, experts, think tanks and key journalists.  It is around 500 to 250 people.

You are also going to have an institutive feeling for the who the key 25 people are. These are the 25 people who are at the end of the day will make the final decisions.


  1. Be flexible

You are going to have a plan, but you know your plan is going to go out of the window very quickly.

You are going to be flexible and harness opportunities. You are going to have a budget and resources that allows you to move with events, to run an advertisement in the Financial Times for a College decision, a go to a meeting that comes up that was never expected.


  1. Work with the media

You are going to be a source of information to the media. You’ll be able to provide the latest and unique insight on developments that is clear and and makes sense to them. They will see you as the go to person for comment 24/7. And, you will answer their calls and emails when they call you. You will make the mundane or technical seem interesting and important.

The press will provide you with the oxygen of publicity and a vital means of telling your story.

  1. Make it simple

You will make the complex clear and technical understandable.  You will be able to chat with Commissioners, politicians, officials, and technical experts in the same meeting at their respective levels.

You do not think that confusion helps, and instead you will speak to the audience at just the level they need.  You’ll shut down colleagues who start talking gobbledygook.

You are not the one of the many who thinks bamboozling your audience is smart. You know it is not and instead just alienates the very people you need to win over.

Instead, you will use smart charts, visuals, stories, facts and figures, that clearly and simply outline your position.  Making things simple is not to make it simplistic, but enlightening, so your audience say “wow, now I have got it”.


  1. Make it appeal to them

You will make your issue important to them.

You can do this in many ways. A well- placed news item on the TV that a politician’s family and friends watch can work wonders. I have not found a politician who wants to be personally responsible for their extinction of a species by their friends and family.

You won’t pitch the issue direct to them and instead, when the opportunity arises, have a friend of the key decision maker do it for you. Chatting about the extinction of a species over a weekend between friends is going to have a lot more clout than a briefing for a civil servant.

You will use celebrities and royals here as they are very helpful. They move in circles that you are unlikely to. They can often make direct appeals to people very high in the political food chain.


  1. Work in the cloud

You are a nomad, have a hot-desk in your office, airport and at home. You are accessible, call forwarding works. You are not a bureaucrat. We live in the 21st century where slack, skype, google office, all allow you, with the help of a smart phone and good internet connection, to work wherever you need to be.

  1. Inform your donors

Your work is going to be funded by the generosity of your members and sometime philanthropists.

It’s easy to forget in the day to day work that you work for them. They are paying the bills.

You need to let them know where their money is going. Always take their call and answer their email. Be straight forward and 100% transparent what you need the money for. If you need funding $100,000 for a court case, give them the details they want to make a decision. You are the ally to the donors and not your fundraising department.

If you start faking it the generosity will dry up very quickly. If you are honest, and admit the chances of success are low, or even non-existent, but it is important to do, I have found that the money will flow, often from unexpected places.


  1. Go Go-Pro

If there were an audience, you would go-pro your day.

Your donors may like to know where their money is going, and it must be a lot better than billable hours.

Sometimes, go-pro can record the unsubtle threat you will get. Death threats are still too common to environmental campaigners.

  1. Stunts work

Stunts  and demonstrations work, but please use volunteers rather than actors.

Greenpeace know stunts work. The world listens.


  1. Play for the long-term

Change does not happen over-night.  Even when you get the laws you want in place, it does not mean that the new laws will be implemented and complied with.

You will have a long-term perspective. You know that even if you get the law on the statute book, you will need to change gear, and get the law implemented, and bring about the change you wanted.

Now, the hard work really starts. You can outsource this work, or take it up yourself, but you are not going to walk away and trust the system to deliver. You know if you do this, the chances of what you wanted ever happening are slim, and the changes you worked so hard for, turn to dust.


  1. Ignore vast waves of land

You are not foolish. You know that vast swathes of the political landscape are never going to support you. Certain countries and political groups are, and likely always will, oppose you.

You are going to focus your limited resources on getting a coalition together of votes that will get you want you want. Nothing more. You are not in the business of gaining converts and instead you are going to focus on making sure your supporters turn up and vote and get enough wavering supporters switching to you.

You will ignore the advice of your colleagues who beg you to spend scarce time and money on getting the support of a country or political group who are publically and privately against you. Going into the lion’s den to win allies is a fool’s dream. You may come out, but you are likely to be scared, often fatally.

There is an exception to this. When you are winning, you can go into the territory you had conceded. It worked for Stalin.

  1. Outsource

You will be smart, and when it is best to win, you will outsource.

Why would you use your own local organization when there is a stronger NGO in that country who is also working on the same issue, supporting you. Use them instead.


  1. One night stands work

Campaigns throw up the most unlikely mutual interests. Harness them.

Working with supportive industry allies is used a lot today. As long as does not dilute your message, use it.

The mutual interest may end the day after you both politically get what you want, but as long as it gets you want you want, it is worth trying it.


  1. Supply the back up

You are going to find political allies who want to help you. Sometimes, they are going to say that they want to help, but they do not have the time and staff to do all the work. Make it easy for them and give to them.

  1. Don’t sound bonkers

Re-watching the documentary, I am reminded that some NGOs can sound bonkers.

Faced between the prospect of overnight de-industrialization or a transition,  most politicians (and people) are going to back the transition.  Pitching that the only way to get to a given target is by embracing the economic planning of Pol Pot is bonkers.

You’ll be smart. You will show how the objective is possible, by using available technologies and is more profitable than today’s model.


  1. Have a few bibles

I have a few core well-thumbed books that I constantly come back to.  Mine are:

  • European Parliament, “Rules of Procedure”
  • European Commission, “Better Regulation Guidelines”
  • Gueguen & Marissen, “Handbook on EU secondary legislation”
  • Chris Rose, “What Makes People Tick” & “How to Win Campaigns”
  • Mailyn Political, “How To Run the European Parliament”


  1. Have the lawyers on standby

Law making brings ups important legal questions. It is helpful to have a good lawyer on call. You will use them to prepare the draft directive, provide quick legal briefing asked for by an ally, rebut a legal position raised by the other side, and sometimes respond to litigation threats.


  1. Take the call

The greatest opportunities come from picking up the phone.  You will get a huge amount by answering calls and making them.

Too many of your colleagues don’t like phones. They dislike the ideas of cold calling to find out what is happening on their issue. They dislike even more the very idea of answering an enquiry from a journalist.

I have got some of my biggest political breaks from the phone.

If people don’t like the phone, it is better they try a new career

  1. Avoid the internal meetings

There is a disease that afflicts too many NGOs. It is internal meetings.

You will avoid this navel gazing. You will focus on changing the outside world and delivering change.

You are not a management consultant preparing yet another new set of power-point. You are a political campaigner.


  1. Speed works

You will have the draft bill, studies, amendments, supporting evidence ahead of time.  You are going to ignore the prevarication and internal dialogue of your hierarchy.

A key lesson I took away from Brussels behind closed doors was that speed works. The major weak point of our opponents is they were slow and we were fast. We did our homework, a lot of it, and tabled everything ahead of time. We played by the rules and used our in-built voting strength to put through our package.

We had a big advantage. Our opponents did not know how to respond because they were working too slowly.

You will learn from this. You will be ahead of the curve. You will have your full package out on the day of the Commission’s proposal. You will obviously already have it. You will set the agenda



I have borrowed ideas liberally from others in my work in particular:

John. Kingdon, “Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies”

Andrew Rich, “Think Tanks, Public Policies and the Politics of Expertise”

Robert. B. Cialdini,  “Influence” & “Pre-suasion”



I have written the counter-point on what to do if you are targeted by a NGO campaign. I may publish it one day.