The results of the opinion poll on the work of the European federations were presented in Brussels earlier this week. Organized by EURACTIV, the target audience was the conglomerate of 3.000 associations present in the EU capital. It is the first quantitative and qualitative analysis of European lobbying activity since the beginning of the pandemic.
On average, 8 people work in each European office, which creates a market of approximately 25.000 experts who are focused on interacting with the European institutions, but also with the main EU capitals. Their objective is clear: access to decision-makers, impact on legislation and ongoing communication with the national organizations or corporations they represent in Brussels.
Of course, the pandemic crisis has severely affected the budgets of associations, two out of three organizations have lower incomes in the last 18 months. There is more and more talk, in this context, about the diversification of income sources. In addition to the traditional annual fee, elements are sought to monetize the scientific reports produced, training programs or even the organization of new, impactful events in various sectors such as energy, health or technology.
There is no 4th pandemic wave in Brussels and this is mainly due to the herd vaccination rate in Belgium of over 70%. The "new normal" suggests an office presence of 2-3 days a week, and the idea of working from home has caught on and will remain. Some organizations are looking for long-term solutions, with an organization leader stating that employee contracts now provide opportunities to work 12 days a month from home and 3 months a year to work online in another country. Of course, it is important to follow the law of the country of residence. In Belgium, for example, the legal framework with an impact on taxes changes if you carry out activities in another country for more than 3 months a year. It is a topic to follow in the coming years.
Returning to the European associations, they have practically two speeds in terms of strategic communication. There is a planning that anticipates a horizon of 6 months, but also a flexibility of reaction adapted to political changes.
Forms of interaction have been central to the debates. If we refer to internal communication, webinars will continue to be the preferred channel, but with a development towards hybrid solutions. However, special attention must be paid to the possible discrimination of people present online from those who are physically present at the meeting. Virtual conferences are gradually being replaced by combined ones (physical and online), but the budgets of these events may change the approach, depending on the financial strength of the organization.
Dan LUCA / Brussels