Lobbying and interest group politics in the European Union

Authored by: Andreas Hofmann

The Routledge Handbook of European Public Policy

Print publication date:  November  2017
Online publication date:  November  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138927339
eBook ISBN: 9781315682723
Adobe ISBN:


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The growing importance of the European Union as a producer of public policy has not gone unnoticed by organised interests. Much like in national political systems, decision-making bodies in the EU attract a multitude of lobbyists seeking access and ultimately influence. Academic interest in lobbying and interest group politics has burgeoned along with this growing awareness on the part of practitioners. At the same time, this interest in the role of interest groups in European integration has deep roots. Early accounts of the driving forces of integration accorded interest groups a central role. Neo-functionalists, in particular Ernst Haas, expected that interest groups and political parties, rather than governments or the population at large, would react to the relocation of power to new policy-making institutions and ‘shift their loyalties, expectations and political activities to a new center’ (Haas, 1958, p. 16). In other words, interest groups would show an acute sense of ‘where the action was’ (Streeck & Schmitter, 1991, p. 133) and thereby drive the process of political integration. Subsequent to the (temporary) demise of neo-functionalism, however, attention to interest group politics remained comparatively limited until the inception of the single market programme in the middle of the 1980s (Bunea & Baumgartner, 2014, p. 1420). Ever since the Treaty of Maastricht there has been talk of an ‘explosion’ of interest group activity at the European level (Berkhout & Lowery, 2010, p. 449; Coen, 2009, p. 145; Mazey & Richardson, 1993, p. v) and a concomitant ‘mushrooming’ (Saurugger, 2008, p. 1274) of academic interest in the phenomenon. There is evidence that the field is experiencing strong growth. A recent survey of academic contributions found that 70 per cent of journal articles on the subject have been authored after 2007 (Bunea & Baumgartner, 2014, p. 1420). The same survey also showed that authors are moving away from an earlier emphasis on explorative and descriptive case studies toward work that is more strongly theory led and comparative. Despite still being considered a niche interest (Beyers, Eising, & Maloney, 2008, p. 1103; Bunea & Baumgartner, 2014, p. 1412), the field of European interest group politics has its own textbooks in multiple editions (Greenwood, 2011; Richardson & Coen, 2009) and it is well represented among special issues in leading academic journals (Beyers et al., 2008; Coen, 2007; Dür & De Bièvre, 2007b; Klüver, Braun, & Beyers, 2015).

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