Foreword from EPACA

Foreword from Isabelle de Vinck

EPACA (the European Public Affairs Consultancies Association) is the representative trade association for professional public affairs consultancies active in the EU marketplace. Our main goal is to lead by example, upholding the highest ethical and professional standards, fighting for more transparent decision-making and being the go-to spokesperson for anyone in society that has questions about our activities.

Promotes high ethical and professional standards

Being an EPACA member is synonymous with the highest-quality of ethical conduct. One of the ways EPACA upholds these high standards is through the Code of Conduct. The signatories of the Code – our members- are all committed to abide by it, acting in an honest, responsible and courteous manner at all times. The Code is a self-regulatory instrument and is recognized by the European Commission and European Parliament. As the basis for EPACA members’ essential ‘licence to operate’, the Code is regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that it reflects best practices, responding to shifting social, economic and political landscapes as well as new communications technologies.

Aside from ethical lobbying standards, promoting the public affairs profession and fighting for more transparency, EPACA has also been at the forefront in promoting the professional standards for the Brussels public affairs sector. This commitment has culminated in the EPACA Charter. It adds to the code of conduct by combining ethics, professionalism and corporate governance. The Charter sets EPACA members apart from other public affairs agencies and demonstrates to clients the benefit of working with EPACA consultancies.

Defends public affairs professionals

Since EPACA’s founding, we have been chipping away at the unjustified bad reputation of the public affairs profession and challenged the stereotypes of lobbying through interviews, TV-appearances, op-eds, negotiations with EU officials and appearances at events. EPACA is showing the world that its members are professionals that are good at what they do, have nothing to hide and can be proud of their work. We present our work as public affairs professionals as contributing to a healthy democratic and transparent process, acting as a link between the world of business and civil society and European policy-makers.

One of the policy issues where EPACA has built up substantial credit with the European Institutions is of course the transparency debate. We have been instrumental over recent years in representing public affairs consultancies with the wider European Transparency Initiative (ETI). Transparency 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 – NGOs, PA firms, companies, trade associations – who aim to influence EU decision-making processes to create a level playing field. For this reason, EPACA is actively advocating to expand the EU Transparency Register’s scope and make it mandatory. These measures would further improve the level playing field as the incentives to sign up to the register would be strengthened. More transparency, however should not become an undue burden. To that end, EPACA is actively campaigning for a system which is more accessible, usable and steers away from putting up unhelpful administrative obstacles.

Advances professionalization of the sector

It is always easy to talk about big values, that’s why EPACA wants to give the opportunity to all its members to also integrate these values in every aspect of our professional lives.

To that end and with a focus on transparency, we are currently launching an online tool to educate our members’ newest staff on the dos and don’ts prescribed by the EPACA Code of Conduct. This tutorial will intend to bring written principles into practical acts and ensure the youngest generation builds a rational approach to ethics in public affairs.

But then again, in a rapidly professionalising PA sector, we also felt the need to keep our members up to speed with the latest trends and debates, not only in our European Bubble but also globally to continue confronting our ideas to other ways of thinking and approaches to public affairs. This is at the heart of events and workshops EPACA organizes on a regular basis to create opportunities to network and bring together a broader public of engaged professionals from the political and professional community to share insights and debate hot topics.

Last but not least, with the EPACA academy we provide a wide range of state-of-the-art trainings for consultants of all experience levels. EPACA provides both trainings on transparency related topics and trainings focussed on skills. These skill-based workshops range from training junior consultants to build a career in public affairs consultancy to assisting the management in running a successful and innovative consultancy.

Why join?

In an age where transparency and ethics in the public arena are under ever-closer scrutiny, it is in the interest of public affairs consultancies to ensure that we and our employees abide by and are protected by accepted policies, codes and regulation. EPACA is the only professional body at EU level representing the interests of public affairs consultancies. By becoming a member you will contribute to the promotion of our profession, benefit the opportunity to network with peers, confront ideas, stay on top of what matters to public affairs professionals in Brussels.

Isabelle de Vinck,
Chairwoman, EPACA – The European Public Affairs Consultancies’​ Association & Managing Partner at Political Intelligence