YPFP Brussels: European Public Affairs in the Spotlight

Posted on December 7, 2012

Senior Public Affairs expert Martin Porter – Chair ECPA and EMEA Public Affairs and General Manager at Edelman - The Centre – led YPFP Brussels’ second “Tools of The Trade” workshop on 5 December. These workshops provide hands-on experience from the perspective of high-level industry experts to a select group of YPFP members. They are designed to provide members with the skills they will need to meet the critical challenges of the future.

A Changing Context

Drawing on over 20 years of public affairs experience (16 of these in Brussels), Mr Porter provided a short but comprehensive overview of the key trends in European Affairs, especially the current social and political repercussions of the Euro-crisis. This was characterised as a moment of important transitions, where the European institutional balance of power is changing. More and more is being achieved through high politics (summits), whilst the impact of the Commission and smaller countries to affect similar outcomes may be fading. Meanwhile, many argue there is an ostensible disconnect between the ongoing work of the European Union, and the expressed sentiment of most national publics.

The Growth of Interest Representation

The group explored the competitive nature of the ‘Brussels Bubble’ – where an estimated 30,000 lobbyists work - with one participant remarking “Brussels still remains less politicised and much more ‘open’ if compared to most European national administrations”. This context, with more and more actors calling for representation, has led to an enhanced role for think-tanks in providing ‘thought-leadership’ to shape agendas and policy directions. In turn, this growth of interest representation has created an environment where ‘trust’ amongst stakeholders has become a key marker of success.

From Public Affairs to Public Engagement

In conclusion the crowd of young professionals agreed that public affairs are not simply about Institutions. They are also about people. Establishing relations of trust, creating alliances, and involving all the different stakeholders (the famous holistic approach) are fundamental steps for achieving a successful career in lobbying as well as diplomacy.