Poland to open a lobby centre in Brussels

The Polish Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Technology wants to open a Polish lobby hub in Brussels. Why? There are almost 12,000 registered lobbyists in the European Transparency Register, 227 of them are located in Poland and 2082 in Belgium. Only about 10 associations/organisations based in Brussels represent the Polish companies.

This figure does not include the European umbrella organisations who represents various interests of sectoral interests, such as Eurosif (financial markets), Copa-Cogeca (agriculture) or the Social Platform (social policies). There are many other of those, and Polish members sometimes are very active.

Business House Poland

Marcin Ociepa, vice-minister responsible for this initiative to boost the Polish presence in Brussels gives the numbers: only 68 registered lobbyists in Brussels are Polish, and some 1400 are German. What he wants is Business House Poland to take off in Brussels.

Why? The problem is obvious: some 70% of economic laws applicable in Poland are affected this way or another by EU law-making. The earlier you engage in the process the better for you, the more impact you have on the final product, the more of your perspectives are included in the over all agenda. More Polish lobby presence is not only a better realignment of Polish and European perspectives but also the Polish interests are better reflected in European laws. The outcome: fewer strange-looking rules or rules targetted against the Polish interests.

The Polish interest or the Polish interests?

Unless there is such a thing, “the Polish interest”. One thing is, of course, to have certain national interests. Another is to lobby for your company interests. Say, energy. It is noble to have more coal lobbyists to provide more data why coal is not so bad (if this is the case) but alongside them will be (or, actually, they are already there) the Polish gas companies who lobby in Brussels for more gas in Poland. One may soon discover the obvious: different companies may have contradictory interests.

Still, having more of their “Polish” perspectives in Brussels is definitely of added value. In 2011, for example, the European Commission decided to increase standards of protection in relation to the quality of meat produced in the EU. It consulted widely, as it usually does. Only back then there was no national association of traditionally smoked product makers who could have told the Commission what kind of impact their proposal would have had on the traditionally smoked sausages and ham and everything else in Poland. Instead, an anti-European outcry took place and the EC decision had to be re-negotiated. The entire problem could have been avoided, should there be a Polish actor consulted ahead of time. The Polish association of producers of traditionally smoked products exists today and is involved by the Polish ministries and the Commission in its subsequent activities, but it shows how important it is to take into account even the smallest national or regional perspective.

The absent are wrong

We shall see more Polish lobbying in Brussels. Already present are the Polish Banks Association, the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers, Konfederacja Lewiatan (Polish business organisation). Their presence is small in terms of staff and budget. The new boost is expected to the driven by a larger presence of the state-owned business, like the Warsaw Stock Exchange.

The ministry support is to be mostly in terms of physical office space. In fact what they think of is an equivalent of the French or Italian industrial presence in the EU capital.

Et alors?

This move could and should be read on a few levels. First, this is an objectively positive step, as there is a general need for the increase of the Polish business presence in Brussels. A stronger engagement of the Polish business should give them greater leverage over the process, and a greater feeling of co-ownership and co-responsibility for the project (EU integration) success. If the Polish companies, in principle, are not benefactors of the EU integration, then who is?

Second, this is a step manifesting a growing self-awareness of the Polish business. Awhile back those were tiny businesses who hardly saw a need to move beyond the Polish borders. As many of them started to make international businesses, mergers, trade within the EU and beyond the EU became a daily reality. Some of them are benefactors of the free-trade agreements of the EU, too. This calls for an increased presence. Hence, this is a natural next step in the maturity of the international of the Polish business.

Third, politically, this is a message of the government contrary to some voices in the Polish opposition, who is accusing the government of a secret deal to “exit” the EU, called Polexit. Investing into the EU should not be interpreted as turning Polish back on Europe, seems to be the message!

Fourth, a reality-check: how many companies will actually want to participate in the exercise? It has been reported that a company which would like to participate in the Business House Poland could cost about 2,000 Euro/month membership fee. The Polish media quoted business people who were very critical of the initiative. They were afraid that the Polish government being unpopular in Brussels might use this tool as their instrument to do politics, and if the business wanted to, they could use existing tools and infrastructure.

True or not, Polish lobby is coming to Brussels, at least the Warsaw Stock Exchange.

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