PA chief: New Parliament will be ‘issue-specific’

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Coalitions in the European Parliament have always been “issue-specific” and will continue to be that way in the new legislature, Georg Danell, managing partner in the Brussels office of public affairs firm Kreab Gavin Anderson, told EURACTIV in an interview.

Georg Danell is managing partner in the Brussels office of Kreab Gavin Anderson, a public affairs firm. 

How do you expect the election results to change your approach to working with the European Parliament? 

I do not expect any major changes in our approach to working, despite some changes in the Parliament. When working with the EP, our aim is to create alliances that support our client’s position. This means targeting influential MEPs that can put issues on the agenda, and these often come from the main political groups. 

How do you envisage the new conservative group set up by the Tories taking shape? Will it work in conjunction with other parties? What do you expect its influence to be on decision-making? 

The main raison d’être for the new group is the opinion on further EU integration and that is not an everyday issue for MEPs to discuss. Hence, I believe that the new group will work closely with the EPP and possibly also ALDE on regulatory issues of concern to business. 

However, the ECR group could be more free-market oriented than the EPP on some issues, especially on financial market issues. The ECR will most likely be the fourth-largest group and as such an important player in the Parliament. 

The new Parliament contains more Eurosceptic, nationalistic and fringe members than under the previous legislature. How do you expect this to change your approach to working with the EU assembly on behalf of your clients? 

It is not clear whether that is the case, but in any event, that would not change our approach to working with the European Parliament. Our focus remains on MEPs that have a big influence on the issues that are relevant to our clients. 

Do you expect any ideological coalitions to emerge in the next Parliament, or do you expect coalitions to be issue-specific? Please give examples. 

The Parliament has always been issue-specific and it will continue to be that way. I foresee a centre-right coalition on most business-related legislation between EPP, ALDE and ECR. 

It is interesting to note that it will be practically impossible to create a majority in the Parliament without the EPP. However, if the EPP decides to do a deal with the Socialists on the Parliament presidency, this might reduce the willingness of ALDE to play ball on economic issues, where they have a chance of being the swing vote. 

Do you expect the EU’s priorities to be modified or changed following the elections? Which three or four key words would you choose for a ‘new narrative’ to replace the Lisbon Agenda? 

I do not foresee any significant change in the EU’s priorities. The financial crisis, the climate and the Lisbon Treaty will remain on the agenda. As for what comes after the Lisbon Agenda, I would choose the key words ‘sustainable recovery’, ‘growth’ and ‘security’. 

To inform MEPs and their national constituencies about EU policy issues and the impact of decisions taken at EU level, what communication channels do you recommend to your clients? Do you focus your lobbying and media activities in Brussels or national capitals? 

We work both towards the institutions in Brussels as well as towards all national capitals, depending on where in the process an issue happens to be, and we believe it is essential to do both. 

We recommend our clients to work both towards Brussels and the member states. As for channels, we can be sure that the new MEPs and above all their assistants will be much more used to new media than their predecessors. 

For their campaigns this time around, several MEPs used electronic and social media to communicate with their constituencies, so we think that agencies should take good note of this and continue using the media that the MEPs themselves chose. 

Because of the size of the EP and numerous issues each MEP will have to deal with, tailor-made messages and delivery channels will stand a better chance of being received than broad campaigns. 

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