Industrial regions and lobbying in the structural funds reform process

P. McAleavey, J. Mitchell

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A recent survey of lobbying in the European Community (EC) reminded us that the practice is as old as the Community itself. However, the volume and style of lobbying have changed over the last decade. The extent to which a discernible 'European' style of lobbying is emerging has been a key theme in the expanding literature. Andersen and Eliassen suggest that recently a 'tendency towards a more 'European' style of lobbying' has become evident. Mazey and Richardson foresee 'more stable and manageable networks of policy-makers and groups emerging', but note the need to develop a more complex conceptualization of the structure and process of interest intermediation 'taking account of quite significant variations in the nature of policy networks'. Similarly, Gorges suggests that in the context of the Maastricht agreements any trends will be uneven and differences in the nature of interest intermediation will exist between 'macro-level, sectoral-level and micro-level patterns'. The role of sub-national government has been a notable feature of European Community lobbying, and yet remains a largely unexplored field in the literature. Greenwood et al point out that the 'territorial dimension' is often neglected in the traditionally narrow view of an 'interest group' as formal association in the 'function business domain'. In practice, however, Andersen and Eliassen note that cities have established themselves as lobbyists to a much greater extent in Brussels than in national politics though Goldsmith contends that most local governments simply react to EC initiatives rather than seek to shape them. The point made frequently in the literature on lobbying and group politics that the best time to exert influence is early in the process has not entirely been taken on board by sub-national governments. Yet opportunities exist. As Goldsmith notes, the small size of the EC bureaucracy, its need for information (especially from more varied sources than simply the Member State governments), and the reliance of the European Commission upon sub-national government of the implementation of many Community programmes and regulatory policies increasingly offer openings to sub-national government. Offsetting these opportunities for sub-national governments, however, are other considerations potentially limiting their role in direct EC lobbying. As Grant has noted, the lobbying of Member States will remain important. This applies to lobbying by sub-national governments as well as that undertaken by industry. A distinction must be made between those decisions which the Member States will jealously guard as their own and those which can be transferred to the European level. Moreover, for many issues the intergovernmental nature of EC decision-making in the Council of Ministers means that lobbying by sub-national government may have limited impact except within the context of individual Member States. The nature of lobbying has to be considered. There could be no prospect of effective lobbying if each sub-national territory from each of the Member States approached the European Commission individually. Effective lobbying requires some degree of co-operation across the Community for two main reasons. Firstly, the sub-national territories operate alongside a plethora of other groups and lobbyists. Simple logistics demand that a unified approach is provided in order to be heard. Secondly, in the field of redistributional policies in particular, the Commission cannot be seen to develop a clientelistic relationship with individual regions, but prefers to deal with a 'pan-European' body articulating the common position of economically similar regions. This is a study of an attempt to establish a lobbying organization for economically declining industrial regions in the Community, and the actions taken by such regions to protect their interests in the Structural Funds reform process. The establishment of the Association of Traditional Industrial Regions of European (RETI) and the manner in which it has evolved, including changing its name to the Association of European Regions of Industrial Technology (retaining the acronym RETJ) to convey a more positive image, illustrates the difficulties and opportunities for regional lobbyists in the EC policy process.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)237-248
Number of pages12
JournalJCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1994


  • structural funds
  • Political institutions (Europe)
  • European Union
  • lobbying
  • European Community
  • sub-national government

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