EPACA Best in Brussels: Foreword 2023
The current climate in EU public affairs
This is a particularly interesting period for the association and for the public affairs sector as a whole. Recent events have raised serious concerns of corruption at the heart of the EU institutions, which is damaging to citizen’s trust in policy-making and to the reputation of legitimate interest representation. EPACA and its members have long been promoters of ethical and transparent lobbying in Brussels, pushing for an increasingly mandatory character of the Transparency Register, equal rules for all policymakers to only meet with registered lobbyists, and for the creation of a level playing field for legitimate interest representation.
While the Commission and Parliament are rightfully taking initiatives to curb undue influence in the EU, EPACA is concerned that certain measures could have the unintended consequence of making access to policymakers less democratic or could lead to disparity between different data disclosure mechanisms. For instance, the early 2023 decision to remove the contact details of certain Commission officials from the Whoiswho Directory is creating a competitive advantage for insiders with an active network within the Commission. The EU Defence of Democracy Package, on the other hand, risks creating additional reporting obligations for public affairs consultancies while all relevant information is already available in the Transparency Register. Considering this, EPACA will continue to play its role as a strong advocate for an integrity framework that is more mandatory, effective and efficient.
EPACA: a focus on ethical standards, defending public affairs, and professionalising the sector
Whilst adapting to changing political realities, EPACA maintains its focus on promoting ethical standards in the EU public affairs space. Being an EPACA member is synonymous with the highest quality of ethical conduct, which is upheld by initiatives such as EPACA’s Code of Conduct, a self-regulatory instrument recognised by the European Commission and European Parliament. As well as advocating for ethical lobbying standards, increased transparency, and the public affairs profession as a whole, EPACA has been at the forefront of promoting the professional standards for the Brussels public affairs sector. This commitment and effort culminated in the EPACA Charter, which adds to the Code of Conduct by combining ethics, professionalism, and corporate governance.
Since EPACA was founded, we have been working to alter the reputation of the public affairs profession, challenging the unfavourable stereotypes of lobbying through interviews, media appearances, opinion pieces, negotiations with EU officials, and appearances at events. We emphasise how our activities as public affairs professionals contribute to a healthy democratic and transparent process, acting as a link between the world of business, civil society, and European policy-makers.
The transparency debate has been central to EPACA’s work, and it has always been our fundamental guiding principle. All members of EPACA are committed to the highest standards of integrity and believe that those same standards should apply to all lobbyists who aim to influence EU decision-making processes – such as NGOs, PA firms, companies, and trade associations. For several years, EPACA has cooperated with the Transparency Register Secretariat to share views and insights from our members on the development of a Mandatory Transparency Register, and we will continue to do so.
EPACA actively works to give its members the opportunity and tools to integrate the values of transparency, ethics, and integrity into every aspect of their professional lives. Through our Code of Conduct and online tools, we aim to bring written principles into practical acts and ensure the youngest generation builds an ethical approach to public affairs. Each year, our workstreams focus on particular areas of relevance, from Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, to GDPR compliant stakeholder mappings, to the impact of emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence on public affairs. Through our events and workshops, we also ensure our members are informed on the latest trends and debates, on a global level as well European – confronting our ideas with diverse ways of thinking and approaching public affairs.
EPACA (the European Public Affairs Consultancies Association) is the representative trade association for professional public affairs consultancies active in the EU marketplace. Public affairs consultancies play a crucial and active role in the democratic process, acting as a link between the world of business, civil society, and European policy-makers. At EPACA, we aim to lead by example, upholding the highest ethical and professional standards in our work, promoting more transparent decision-making, and acting as the go-to spokesperson for anyone who wants to know more about public affairs activities.
Why join EPACA?
Transparency and ethics in the public arena continue to be under scrutiny. Public affairs consultancies must ensure that we and our employees abide by and are protected by accepted policies, codes, and regulations. EPACA is the only professional body at EU level representing the interests of public affairs consultancies and members are an active and vital part of the association’s activities. By becoming a member of EPACA, consultancies can contribute to the promotion of the public affairs profession, network with peers, exchange ideas, and stay abreast of what matters to public affairs professionals in Brussels.