Poland to increase number of lobbyists in Brussels

Poland Undersecretary of State, Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Technology Marcin Ociepa at an informal meeting of trade ministers, 5 October 2018. [Angelika Warmuth/EPA/EFE]

Warsaw will create a lobbying centre for Polish entrepreneurs in Brussels to help them exert a greater influence on EU legislation. EURACTIV Poland reports.

According to the Polish ministry of enterprise and technology, it is estimated that over 70% of EU law has an impact on the activities of Polish companies, but they have a negligible contribution to the creation of this EU legislation compared to German or French companies.

“This is meant to be an impulse for more activity and the presence of Polish entrepreneurs in Brussels. It is about creating an instrument, thanks to which Polish companies will be able to more effectively protect their interests and gain new development opportunities,” deputy minister of entrepreneurship and technology, Marcin Ociepa said.

The registration of the organisation that will run Business Poland House is expected to be finalised within a few weeks.

“Polish entrepreneurs should see a more active presence in the EU, also in the lobbying dimension. The stronger the representation of Polish companies in the capital of the EU, the better their voice will be heard,” Ociepa told Polish press agency PAP.

Too enough Polish lobbyists in Brussels?

The public register of the European Commission shows that only ten associations or organisations representing Polish companies have placed their lobbyists in Brussels. According to the deputy minister, there are 68 of them compared to 1,400 from Germany.

The Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Technology pointed out that EU Integrity Watch data from the end of May 2018, stated that EU member states had a total of 4,100 lobbying organisations – of which Poland had 93, while Germany and Belgium had more than 700. The European Commission’s and European Parliament’s transparency register indicates that Poland has 21 registered offices in Brussels, and Germany has 314.

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“Every Polish diplomat employed in the Permanent Representation of Poland serves Polish entrepreneurs and this will not change, but we are talking about the fact that Polish business and Polish entrepreneurs also have to do their homework and should be more present in Brussels,” Ociepa said.

Only energy companies, the Polish Bank Association, the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers as well as the Confederation of Lewiatan have representatives who follow the EU procedures and legislative mechanisms. However, their representative offices are not large enough to monitor projects for legislative changes from the earliest stage. It is much more difficult for them to organise a conference with important guests or invite an EU Commissioner.

Business Poland House

The creation of a Business Poland House (BPH) “arises from the need to increase the activity of Polish entrepreneurs in the legislative processes conducted in Brussels,” explained the ministry in November last year.

“The purpose of the initiative is, among others: presentation of Polish entrepreneurs’ point of view, organization of conferences, networking and training events, publication of reports, monitoring of legislative processes,” the ministry said, emphasising that the BPH’s task is not to replace other organisations, but to support them.

According to the BPH objectives, it is meant to be open to all Polish entrepreneurs and the offer should be so diverse that it would be attractive to all business representatives: from start-ups to corporations. It would represent their interests and be managed by bodies elected at the a general meeting, which would include all members of BPH (each member, one vote).

Expensive lobbying

Although the impetus to establish the Business Poland House came from the ministry of entrepreneurship, its establishment is to be dealt with by business itself. Meanwhile, from the existing informal information and media reports, it appeared that not all state-owned companies expressed interest in joining this initiative, because it is connected with considerable costs.

The Polish ministry admits that “owning a company’s branch office generates high costs, requires appropriate knowledge and experience”, while many companies do not meet these conditions.

The BPH, the ministry explains, would be financed in accordance with the provisions of Article 6.1 of the Act on Employers’ organisations, according to which “the assets of employers’ associations, their federations and confederations arise from membership fees, donations, inheritances, subscriptions, from their own activities and income from property of the organisation.”

According to the presented concept, the Warsaw Stock Exchange will play a leading role in cooperation with other State Treasury companies. The Polish government assures that nobody is forcing anything, because decisions will be taken by the companies.

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It also distanced itself from information on the price list for companies that would like to be part of Business Poland House. “We encourage Treasury companies to establish an organisation that could create this lobbying centre. They will pay contributions, but these will be their internal arrangements,” the Polish deputy minister said.

Private entrepreneurs are expected to submit an offer to use the BPH. The basic service, for example the opportunity to use the desk, make an appointment at this Brussels centre is to be free of charge. However, one will have to pay for the use of conference rooms or the services of experts working there.

“Of course, we would like to see a lot more different options, but those who will establish this institution will decide about it. This will not be done by the ministry of entrepreneurship and technology,” Ociepa said.

Lobbying initiatives of other EU countries

Other member states already have similar initiatives in Brussels, where entrepreneurs or industries merge into associations.

The European Small Business Alliance (ESBA) brings together, for example, smaller companies, such as the Mouvement des Entreprises de France, and CONFINDUSTRIA, for Italian firms.

“We observe how other countries support their entrepreneurs in a smart way, creating various types of institutions, think-tanks that are not under the national or government flag, but are in fact somehow supported by the state. We would like to do the same,” the Polish deputy minister concluded.

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