Posts tagged ‘eBay’

How the European Citizens’ Initiative will shake up the Brussels bubble

The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is a new instrument whereby the European Commission has to put forward legislative proposals to respond to a petition that has gathered one million signatures within a year coming from at least 7 EU Member States. Although some organisations such as eBay or Greenpeace have already started ECI-like petitions, the first “official” ECIs are expected as of February 2012 in order to allow Member States to take the necessary measures to implement the new scheme.

Much has been said and written on the European Citizens’ Initiative. Discussions however have mainly focused on whether it would be a success or a failure, the potential risks of the instrument – more than the opportunities – and what its impact could be on the EU decision-making equilibrium. Few commentators wondered whether there had already been pan-European petitions that reached one million signatures, and if there had been, how they managed to do so. We had already raised this point in the panel we organised in October at the Personal Democracy Forum with MEP Marietje Schaake, Julius van de Laar from Avaaz, and Euroblogger Jon Worth.

As we like the ECI so much, we have pursued our analysis in our brand new FH paper, looking specifically at how pan-European petitions have managed to gather one million signatures in the past, how the Internet has helped them do so –our favourite topic- and what the first European Citizens’ Initiatives might be about.

[10 April, 2012: In light of unintended perceptions of our services around the ECI, we are revising our paper to clarify our offering. We stress that our support on the ECI would not extend to organising citizens’ initiatives as this is not in line with the Commission’s rules on the ECI. We apologise if the paper appeared to state otherwise. We shall be uploading the updated paper asap but please bear with us, it’s Easter.. As ever we would appreciate any input from readers.]

Yes we are making predictions! Let’s see in two years from now if we got them right. I’m personally very curious to see how the European Citizens’ Initiative will evolve. Will it be overexploited or hardly used at all? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure: it has the potential to change the well-established dynamics of the Brussels bubble and take us out of our comfort zone.

Laurence

March 14, 2011 at 6:10 pm 1 comment

Why it is better that public affairs is public

Amidst the continuing discussions over transparency here in Brussels, a blog entry on the advocacy activities of eBay on the European Parliament Blog  reminds us that whatever position an organisation advocates towards policymakers, they should be prepared for it to become public.

Brussels is, so the cliche goes, a small town. You’d be amazed how willing people are to talk about who is saying what on any given issue. Its part of the unwritten rules of the game. And that goes for institutional actors as well as lobbyists (consultants, corporates, trade associations, NGOs et al). The position paper that you just emailed to the MEP’s office could be forwarded to anyone at the touch of a button, more than that it probably will be.

As such, it is not just an organisation’s lawyers who should be checking what you write in your position paper. The public affairs team should also ensure that whatever is advocated fits in with corporate messages and the core values of the organisation. Such an approach seems like common sense, but in our experience is not always followed when an organisation’s bottom line is at stake.

Such an approach also makes a lot of sense in terms of ensuring that an organisation’s advocacy is effective. Decision-makers in Brussels need information and are happy to  listen as long as you have something to say that is relevant to them and what they are trying to achieve. The result of Brussels openness, despite what some may say, is better legislation and a vibrant public affairs culture that stresses professionalism rather than personal contacts.

In such a system, what you say, how it resonates with policymakers’ objectives and when you say it are going to play a large role in how successful you are in persuading people. But underpinning this is how credible you are as an organisation in making that case. How much the decision-maker sees you as authoritative on the issue and how far your position echoes what they think you stand for are therefore important factors in how likely you are to be believed.

We think many organisations are getting this, as we have seen many more investing time in building their reputation with decision-makers in recent years. It is for a large part about ensuring that Corporate Communications and PA work together hand in glove. They are after all both communications functions. Such investments are sometimes difficult to justify internally, but PA functions in enlightened companies seem to be winning the argument.

One example of this is Sun Microsystems, an open source company that takes its approach to business over to how it communicates its stance on policy issues. You can find their policy positions on their website. Other examples that we have come across are consumer goods manufacturer P&G and of course Google’s (US focused) Public Policy blog.

Now there’s transparency at work.

September 7, 2007 at 9:57 am 2 comments


About this blog

A blog on politics, policy, public affairs and communications in Brussels and the European Union. The blog is written by the team at Fleishman-Hillard in Brussels. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect those of the company or its clients. You will find the contact details of our team at www.fleishman-hillard.eu

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