If you want something politically, what gets you the best results: generating mass enthusiasm or patiently lobbying behind the scenes?

Politically, ‘best results’ can be understood through achievement of direct, quantifiable outcomes relating to policy change, through gaining recognition and validity as representatives, or as an indirect, immeasurable outcome, concerning changes in public or political values (Rochon & Mazmanian, 1993; Giugni, 1998). Predominately, best results can be seen as generated through influence. Influence is defined by Betsill & Corell as the ‘modification of one actor’s behaviour by that of another’ (Betsill & Corell, 2001:73). The success or failure to influence political outcomes is frequently evidenced, whether as an NGO or corporate body, through assessment of lobbying activities, access to negotiations, policy revisions and public support (Betsill & Corell, 2001). Lobbying, despite negative associations with ‘buying’ power (Sanders, 2009), provides a legitimate source of influence to political, industry and public opinion through supplying expertise, marshalling evidence, creating networks, developing strategy, targeting attention and resources on behalf of a specific issue (Sanders, 2009). The term ‘mass enthusiasm’ alternatively, denotes the social capital of civil society, industry, the state and new social movements (NSM’s) (Schmitt-Beck, 1992) and their ‘collective action’ (Van Der Heijden, 2006:25), mass media support, and action in the form of participation, protest and petition (Carmin, 2003).

This essay will argue that despite the interdependence of lobbying and mass enthusiasm, the greatest political influence within Europe is gained through lobbying irrespective of the actor. This argument will be stated through the case of the environmental movement due to the strength of environmental non-governmental organisations (ENGO’s) at generating mass enthusiasm, while participating in institutionalised lobbying. Firstly the essay will examine the individual merits of lobbying versus mass enthusiasm to gain influence, before considering the European states interaction with methods of political influence. Next, contemplation will be given to the influencing strategies of ENGO’s and States on the EU, finally providing evidence of the political loop created by the Europeanization of the policy process, supported by lobbying from inside the EU.

When reflecting on the merits of mass enthusiasm verses lobbying it is important to consider that ENGO’s address their message to two separate audiences; political authorities for recognition, as well as to get their demands met, at least in part, while aiming to sensitize the public to their cause. The additional effect of public support is indirect national government support as they develop policy to appeal to the electorate; this is particularly evident during periods of ENGO membership growth (Newell, 2000). Giugni argues that this presents a strong case for taking public opinion into account as an important external factor when considering the outcomes of social movements (Giugni, 1998).

The influence of ENGO’s can also be understood through the insider/outsider perspectives, some groups being more ‘in’ and therefore having more access to lobbying and formal influence, opposed to those who are acting on the periphery as outsiders, relying more predominately on mass enthusiasm to a create change. ENGO’s may move up and down this continuum fairly quickly depending on shifts in states and party alignment (Goldstone, 2004:344). Within this framework insider groups, with access to formal institutions have more measurable successes within policy formation (Goldstone, 2004). Understanding the scope of ENGO’s aims demonstrates the interdependence of lobbying and mass enthusiasm, and strengthens the argument that political opportunity structures favouring participation increases ENGO’s institutional actions, while supporting the need for additional protest actions, both of which compliment routine political participation (Goldstone, 2004).

The limitations of influence are highlighted by Betsill & Corell, who as many others, have based measurability of success on negotiation outcomes, access to meetings and resources. They rightly identify that other actors behaviour is often over looked and may be over determined, explicitly expressing, that there is always the risk of confusing correlation with causation when attempting to measure influence (Betsill & Corell, 2001). This approach to measuring success and influence is again suggested as lacking by Goldstone, who considers that as ENGO’s audiences are distinctly separate but both are valid therefore, mass enthusiasm and lobbying should be accounted for when assessing ENGO’s success (Goldstone, 2004).

The concept of influence is disputed by Rochon & Mazmanian who see ‘no evidence that social movements are more effective in changing policy than the conventional channels of participation are, and indeed they may well be less effective’ (Rochon & Mazmanian, 1993:76). This statement can be dismissed through Betsill & Corell surmising that ‘it’s hard to perceive that persistent lobbying; media influence and high profile were without effect’ (Betsill & Corell, 2001:69). Sanders, however, is sceptical about the worth of lobbying parliament describing it as the ‘least effective method of influence requiring most effort with the least likely result’ (Sanders, 2009:112), although he acknowledges ‘this is not a view companies share judging against the vast sums of money involved’ (Sanders, 2009). While ENGOs have become increasingly involved in the policy process, their dominant role changed from critical opponents reliant on mass enthusiasm, into ‘partners, consultants and lobbyists’ (Borzel & Buzogany, 2010:719).

The evolution of ENGO’s from critical opponents to partners and consultants within formal institutions has had a strong influence on European states. The relationship between ENGOs and states serves to legitimise and strengthen both sides, through the benefits and compromises of lobbying and mass enthusiasm, but it can be seen that ENGO’s attempts to influence at the state level face competition for favour. Rucht describes

“a complex web of horizontal and vertical relationships between decision-makers, implementing bodies, and nongovernmental actors, where policy decisions, even if formally made in a committee at the highest level, are strongly influenced by a plethora of other actors. “ (Rucht, 2001:130)

Carter reminds us that the wider public, ‘despite frequently expressing concern about environmental issues, still want governments to maximise economic growth, protect jobs and cut taxes’ (Carter, 2002:223). This affects the social capital behind the issue, the government resistance to mass enthusiasm or lobbying and the validity of EU environmental directives. Environmental groups may have acquired more formal power, but ‘in most core policy areas industrial interests still wield far greater influence’ (Carter, 2002:223). The expansion of ENGO’s interests follows the realisation that there are other arenas in which to launch policy ideas and frameworks within national government and the EU (Richardson, 2000). The EU is now the primarily focus of states for environmental decision making and appears to have played a progressive role in environmental policy (Carter, 2002)

The EU is seen as serving as a moral compass of policy, and an overseer of member state environmental strategy. This has created a paradoxical set of relationships with some ENGOs moving focus towards the EU due through the perception that ‘a growing number of relevant environmental policy decisions are actually developed by EU institutions’ (Rucht, 2001:128). Conversely, as Newell states, there is a lack of efficiency and effectiveness of international environmental institutions which also means that many groups have reverted back to the nation state, or stayed away from the EU in preference of national-level lobbying, even following initiation of the process within the supranational institution (Newell, 2000).

Consequently the EU headquarters are dominated by business interest groups, in opposition to environmental groups (Grant & Feehan, 2007). The power and influence of the business groups, in comparison to ENGO’s low level of resources, in both financial and social capital terms, has led to the poor capacity of ENGOs to gain influence in the EU (Fagin, 2000). The lack of resources has in turn, led to the formations of coalitions, enabling monitoring and lobbying of legislators and executive bodies through more robust means (Petrova & Tarrow, 2007). Borzel & Buzogany offer an alternative solution to that of Petrova & Tarrow, claiming instead that due to limited resources ENGO’s focus on the implementation of EU Directives in their country, lobbying national policy makers for a correct and complete transposition into national law (Borzel & Buzogany, 2010:712-3).

Opportunity for protest or other mass enthusiasm generation has also had a poor record within Brussels. Rucht states that ‘regardless of the importance of environmental policy making there is only modest representation of environmental groups in Brussels and a striking lack of protest’ (Rucht, 2001:139). He clarifies further by stating that environmental groups are significantly engaged in a range of lobbying activities, but there were only a handful of protests, which did not attract much media attention (Rucht, 2001). Overall there is concern that the lack of mass enthusiasm or protest together with a decline in lobbying, which is the only current expression of ENGO’s aims, has led to the ‘environmental movement punching below its weight in Brussels despite the important advances which it has made in its institutional presence in the city over the last few years’ (Grant & Feehan, 2007:321).

As has been considered, a formal process of ENGO’s and states influencing the EU through lobbying is entrenched within the institutional structures. A political loop is created as the EU provides support and financial assistance in to ENGO’s and strives to influence policy and NSM’s in member and accession states (Borzel & Buzogany, 2010). This is an example of two way, variable and asymmetric structures influencing and creating policy which is commonly understood as Europeanization (Bale, 2005). Although the EU is not the only influence of national environmental movements it is influential in setting noteworthy sections of their agenda and provides the ‘means and conditions of activism itself’ (Hicks, 2004:216). In Romania the processes associated with Europeanization have been directly seen to influence the development of ENGO’s, this is due to weak societal structures which provided EU activists opportunities for engagement (Borzel & Buzogany, 2010) Parau highlights two interacting causal pathways to explain Romania’s acceptance of external influence; a desire to accede to the EU and the abundance of domestic NGO networks which lacked coherence (Parau 2009:119). Hicks, also notes the European Union’s targeting of post-communist countries, such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, has lead to each of them listing the EU as their biggest environmental issue, due to its source of ‘external pressure shaping the evolution of environmental activism in the region’ (Hicks, 2004:216). This external influence results in the homogenisation of environmental movement activities such as lobbying, research, and generating national support, in order, it is argued, to’ address the national government’s implementation of EU-initiated policies’ (Hicks, 2004:225).

Borzel & Buzogany identify the EU’s tendency to ‘instrumentalist ENGO’s as service providers and co-producers of efficient and effective policy regulations’ (Borzel & Buzogany, 2010:729) further tied through funding, to work within nation states, again securing the EU’s position as a hidden ‘top down’ lobbyist, and creating donor dependency (Cisar, 2011). The developmental importance of state level ENGO’s has already been considered, but it must be restated that democratisation and social capital are an equally important if national environmental groups are to receive levels of mass enthusiasm so vital in enabling lobbying and formal channels of influence.

In conclusion, achieving the politically best result, when defined as the most dominate influence, is provided through lobbying. This is over that of the influence which can be achieved through mass enthusiasm. This is not to dismiss the dual role of ENGO’s who engage in both activities to address the needs of two very separate audiences: political elites and the wider public. Lobbying also provides the most direct route to changing status from a critical opponent to that of an insider, or consultant of formal institutions in a measurable way. Despite strong relationships with formal institutions, ENGOs often face many challenges from competing influences. At the EU level, lobbying again provides the catalyst for both state and EU lead policy implementation.


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