British Conservatives MEPs’ influence in the new European Parliament will “decline considerably” as a result of party leader David Cameron’s decision to pull them out of the European People’s Party (EPP), Elaine Cruikshanks, CEO of consultancy Hill and Knowlton’s Brussels office, told EURACTIV in an interview.
Cameron has “traded in an influential position within the EPP […] for the leading position in a group whose members do not seem to have much in common but their Euroscepticism,” said Cruikshanks.
“Before discussing possible cooperation with other groups, they will first have to find an internal agreement on a common line,” she explained, something which she believes will be “rather problematic”.
Moreover, the public relations chief does not expect the emergence of new ‘ideological coalitions’ like the anti-federalist group to have much of an influence on forging parliamentary majorities, which “will continue to be issue-specific”.
Meanwhile, Cruikshanks does not believe the election of more Eurosceptics and nationalists to change her firm’s approach to working with the Parliament.
“Those MEPs who have placed themselves on the fringes of the political spectrum are usually less open to an exchange of views” with lobbyists and fellow MEPs, she explained, meaning that “they are hardly ever involved when deals are struck”.
Asked to reflect on whether a ‘new narrative’ should replace the bloc’s flagship Lisbon Strategy for boosting growth and jobs, Cruikshanks recalled that the centre-right European People’s Party had called on European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to “commit to a five-year legislative pact”.
This pact would be based on the main priorities of the EPP’s Warsaw Manifesto: the social market economy, security, subsidiarity, borders and a clear European identity, she said.
“This does not reflect much of the Lisbon Agenda. If Barroso wants to gain the necessary support of the European Liberals, he should think about adding issues such as competitiveness and a common policy versus legal immigrants and asylum seekers,” she added.
Cruikshanks predicts that the inauguration of the new European Parliament will bring “a lot of work for consultants,” because “some 40% of MEPs” are new.
“Flagging a problem, proposing a solution and trying to generate support amongst decision-makers both in Brussels and in member states is as the heart of each lobbying campaign,” the Hill and Knowlton chief explained.
In doing this, “communication channels such as blogs or social media have to be considered” to involve a wider audience and provide politicians with a platform to profile themselves, Cruikshanks said.