Foreword, from Wes Himes
This year SEAP launched LobbyEurope (www.lobbyeurope.org) – the platform intends to bring together lobbyists, stakeholders and curiosity seekers who wish to understand the role and regulation of lobbying and its professional development. Often referred to as lobbyists, public affairs practitioners are at the forefront of a regulated and transparent sector, dedicated to improve policy making and add to the voices in democracy.
At the heart of the LobbyEurope is the recently launched Transparency Pledge – an advocacy campaign that will raise awareness and ask MEP’s and other EU stakeholders to support, through their signature, the importance of ensuring that access to policy debates is granted to all interest representatives, and that all should be allowed to take part in public debates as long as they abide by the EU Transparency Framework. Furthermore, the Pledge is calling for the development of transparency regulation in the EU, a topic that remains in a standstill and should be relaunched for debate by the new Commission. As always, SEAP will remain at the heart of this debate, advocating high standards on these matters and continuing to assist its members.
Today the public is more informed about the roles and problematics that affect the profession, which has been given increased attention by the media (not only in Brussels, but also across the EU). It is thus more important than ever that industry voices are committed to advocating for the highest standards of transparency, disclosure, ethics and behaviour when engaging in interest representation activities. This is one of the reasons why, at SEAP, all our member public affairs professionals receive online training on our self-regulatory Code of Conduct, preparing them to act in a proper and ethical manner before policy officials, as well as letting them be up to date with the regulatory matters regarding transparency. At the same time, it is necessary to assure that regulations around transparency do not evolve in a way that places undue burdens or unhelpful restrictions upon the activities of public affairs professionals. A delicate balance must be struck to ensure PA professionals can perform their functions whilst allowing the general public to hold public officials accountable for their decisions.
One of the aims of SEAP and LobbyEurope in 2020 is to advance the process of professionalisation of the industry. Like the advertising and public relations industry before it, the evolution of the public affairs industry needs to now address critical issues such as quality management, academic studies and increased training and mentoring programmes to assure those higher standards in the profession. This year, SEAP and LobbyEurope aim to roll out additional projects and programmes in these important areas.
To further develop and enfranchise young professional public affairs practitioners, we launched our free membership for under 26s. This provides a friction free entry into the lobby world, allowing young professionals to learn from those with experience, network amongst their peers, and take advantage of training and information benefits of the Society.
Throughout this year, SEAP will promote multiple initiatives via LobbyEurope, including the recently launched Transparency Pledge, and we hope to sincerely count with your support in raising lobbying standards all across the European Union. The BestinBrussels.eu publication is a testimony to the increased legitimacy of public affairs professionals, allowing the reader to better perceive the public affairs space and the valuable contribute it brings to policy-making. At SEAP we will continue to remain vigilant to ensure that lobbying, in all its forms, remains a corruption free zone. We encourage all participants in public affairs to be part of your profession by joining a professional body such as SEAP or EPACA. The environment for public affairs and its future fate rests on ensuring that stakeholders know that the profession is being managed at the highest standards. It is our mission at SEAP – make it yours. If you are a public affairs professional support your local professional association and join us today.
The Society of European Affairs Professionals (SEAP), along with EPACA, serve as the professional bodies representing public affairs professionals from across a broad spectrum of actors, from trade associations, in-house corporates, NGO’s and consultancies. SEAP already counts with more than 20 years of history upholding strong standards of transparency and ethical behaviour for the industry, taking a leading role in promoting self-regulation initiatives (such as our Code of Conduct) and participating in public debates to ensure industry voices are heard in the development of regulations that might affect their activities.