Analysis: Italian lobbying in Brussels

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

The Italian Centre for International Perspective (CIPI) recently published a first Report on “Italian lobbies in Brussels.” The paper brings in useful insight on the reality and “raison d’être” of lobbying in Brussels, as well as on the quantitative and qualitative aspects of the Italian presence in the EU decision-making sphere.

The CIPI report sets out very broad and inclusive definition of lobbying which is described as “a process where the agents of different interest groups interact, pushing for their demands in front of the decision-makers” thus involving “not only professional lobbying, but also all those people, offices and delegations, public and private, representing and defending specific interests.”

To an Italian audience, CIPI points out that lobbying generally carries a misleading and negative connotation and is largely understated in the Italian public debate. Alongside other “structural” factors, this may account for the difficulties of Italian lobbying in the EU institutional realm. More than a matter of size (3,862 persons are estimated to represent Italian interests in Brussels), Italian lobbying methods suffer from “the imprint of the domestic Italian system,” CIPI says. The report especially emphasises the following weaknesses:

• Plurality of voices and fragmentation of interests, which leads to a blurred vision of the cause to defend;
• Lack of strategic planning and organisation, especially by political managers at domestic level;
• Under-representation at key positions within the EU institutions;
• Excessive dependence on “personal trust” and “informal relations” (instead of “system credibility”);
• Insufficient adaptation to the multicultural aspect of EU affairs – lack of  international partnerships on similar policy interests;
• “Lack of an adequate linguistic and technical training” to the EU decision-making process to get a sound grasp of the stakes of lobbying in Brussels. 

That said, the CIPI Report also evokes ‘success stories’ and observes a rising awareness and a change in attitude with some important public and private representatives in Brussels. The report recommends that a constructive reflection be initiated for Italian lobbies to “bridge the gap between being present and being influential.”

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