Lobby groups
Commission
0 On DEsite
1 General
2 Pillar structure
3 Bodies
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5 Lobby groups
  • On lobbying
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  • 6 Case histories
    7 Information and publications

    Because of its right of initiative, the European Commission is a popular "lobby target". This institution is at the very beginning of the decision-making trajectory, so if an NGO wants a decision about a particular issue, the Commission is the first place to go.

    The Commission also stimulates public debate when it is developing a new policy. One of the ways to achieve this is by publishing so-called White Papers and Green Papers. These discussion papers explain the problems of a particular issue and list possible options for new policies. A White Paper is more detailed and more concrete than a Green Paper, but neither contains binding proposals. The aim of such "Papers" is to give interested parties an opportunity to give their opinion.

    The Commission maintains contacts with NGOs in different ways. The services of the Commission organise meetings with NGOs to discuss a current issue or consult external experts when questions on a particular subject exist.

    In addition, there is often more structured cooperation in the form of regular meetings on the same subject, without these meetings being official consultations. For instance, twice a year, there is a meeting of the services of the Commission and all organisations that are members of a platform of European social NGOs.

    However, there is also formalised consultation. This is the case when a formal obligation exists to consult the NGOs during the decision-making process, for instance, in advisory or consultation committees. There are fixed rules and procedures. An example is the consultation committees in the field of agriculture.

    The administrative services and the directorates-general are responsible for the preparation of the proposals before the board of commissioners decides. The longer a subject is in preparation, the more official it becomes and the more difficult it is to make any changes. If an NGO want to exert any influence, it is best to start as early as possible and on the lowest possible rung of the hierarchical ladder of the Commission.

    Good contacts are essential here, since in the initial stage there are no official documents. And even if a green or a white paper is published, it is better to have been involved in its realisation than having to try to make changes at a later date.

    At the moment, cooperation with NGOs differs per policy field. This means there is no equality as regards access to information and the way in which consultation is organised. The Commission is trying to improve this. At the beginning of 2000, a discussion paper appeared COM (2000) 11 def., in which the current state of affairs is described and in which proposals are made to arrive at better cooperation. For example, information about meetings can be improved, and a list will appear of the NGOs that are involved in formal and structural consultation. So far, the Commission has always opposed the accreditation of NGOs, but now, in the discussion paper, it is considering whether a more formalised approach might provide an added value.