European Law Monitor

Make your voice heard!

What is Lobbying?

The word ´lobbying´ conjures up a number of different reactions, ranging from concern, enthusiasm or general lack of understanding about the general ideas or processes. It´s something ´other people do, in other places´. In fact, lobbying is a widespread phenomenon and can be used as a very effective tool by all organisations, large and small, to ensure their voice is properly heard in the legislative process.

The Mirriam-Webster´s dictionary definition of lobbying is "to conduct activities aimed at influencing public officials and specifically members of a legislative body on legislation".

Lobbying is normally differentiated from other advocacy work by its focus on the legislative process. Lobbyists thus attempt to influence the drafting and implementation of new or existing laws, while advocacy focuses on drawing attention to a specific cause and achieving other, non-legislative, results such as increasing funding, public support or policy review.

The basic skills of lobbying are known to us all. In fact, the best lobbyists of all are, in many ways, small children. How many of us have experienced a small child run through a wide range of persuasive ´arguments´ using charm, specific messages, coalition building, persistence and adapted ´noise´ to obtain their final goal?

Lobbying is not a new activity. As long as formal legislative processes have existed, different groups have sought to influence the development of the legislation in different ways. This is an inherent part of the democratic process.

We would argue that new laws are never developed and implemented by only one individual, and legislators - civil servants or politicians • are very rarely expert in everything. Thus, drafting and implementing sensible and workable legislation requires input from a broad range of perspectives. This is recognised in many cases by the legislative process in which any new piece of legislation starts as a policy concept, sent out for consultation, debated and then finally drafted into a legal format.

Those who wish to become involved in this process must therefore be aware of several key phases in the legislative process: the pre-drafting stage, when ideas are being developed. At the drafting stage, the policy ideas are turned into a legislative framework for approval by the appropriate democratic bodies. Then comes the approval stage, when the draft legislation is debated and voted in Parliament. Finally, laws which have made it onto the statute book must still be implemented. This offers a final opportunity to influence the detail of how any new legislation may impact on your organisation.

Lobbying therefore serves a useful purpose in ensuring your voice is heard. By providing a clear input into the legislative process in a well structured and transparent manner, it also helps legislators develop practical and appropriate laws which will ultimately impact on your organisation.

Renia Coghlan is a professional lobbyist with 10 years experience in lobbying and advocacy in EU affairs. She has been based in London, Brussels and Geneva.

For further information, you can contact her at