“My right flank is destroyed, my left flank is in retreat, everything is fine – attack!”
Those were the words of General Foch in the darkest moments of World War One. We are there once again. Sink or act – that is the choice we have.
One priority for the Planet of the Institutions: action
It is up to men and women to launch action, but the current trend is for appointing people who do not take decisions. The cruel experience of Matteo Renzi, the only European leader to be brutally rejected by his electorate, provides food for thought.
This is probably the reason why the top EU leaders are so inaudible. Mr Juncker – inaudible; Mr Timmermans, the man who talked about this being ‘last-chance Commission’ – inaudible. The same goes for Ms Mogherini, despite major international events around the world. And the likely election of Messrs Tajani or Pitella in the European Parliament will not make any difference.
The European Union has to be restored as the Number 1 political priority. During the right-wing presidential primaries in France, the EU has not featured at all. The same goes for the left-wing primaries which are just beginning.
The only candidate who recognises the EU as a priority is Emmanuel Macron. In private, he has highlighted the need for immediately getting rid of Commission leaders who are no longer capable of taking decisions.
On a positive note, the end of the year has seen two interesting developments: first, the unexpected decision by the Commission to accelerate the process of unifying secondary legislation by aligning procedures of the pre-Lisbon era to the post-Lisbon system of delegated acts and implementing acts.
These proposals, which will be an important aspect of legislative talks in 2017, represent vital progress towards genuine simplification and better governance. In addition, we are seeing more and more initiatives favouring a ‘two-circle Europe’. This concept is the only valid alternative to Brexit. 2017 must bring a combination of analysing, coming together and proposing.
One priority for the Lobbying World: action
It can never be said enough: lobbying is action. However, for two or three years we have seen a growing trend of lobbies who talk a lot about action but do little. The secretary-generals or director-generals appointed to lead European associations these days are mostly communicators, sometimes technical experts from the national scene, but rarely career lobbyists. They therefore have to adapt their new jobs if they want to reach the required performance levels – and the leadership that goes with it.
The paralysis of many European lobbies can also be explained by the fact that they have not taken account of the major changes to decision-making processes and practices introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon.
Everyone understands the relevant agricultural or environmental file, but not knowing how to manage a delegated act or implementing act leads inevitably to inaction. More than ever, the post-Lisbon EU system demands anticipation, which is the twin sister of action.
In 2017, the German editor Springer will publish a collective work on EU lobbying. The contributors include Frans Timmermans, Emily O’Reilly and several practitioners. My chapter will be entitled ‘Reshaping European lobbying: How to be one step ahead’.
My conclusion can be summarised as follows:
To stay one step ahead, you have to reshape your habits and combine four factors on top of the necessary technical expertise: a perfect knowledge of post-Lisbon decision-making processes, an ability to obtain non-public documents (e.g. trilogues), modern communication based on story-telling and a very strong willingness to focus your action on one or two priorities.
With this in mind, we offer you our best wishes for lots of action in 2017!