Foreword, from Wes Himes
Welcome reader to the public affairs profession. Whether you are a client looking for a consultant, a consultant looking for a job or an EU official interested in who is visiting your office, this publication is a testimony to the evolvement of the public affairs industry from niche service to established career. With over 25,000 public affairs professionals in Brussels, SEAP, along with EPACA, serve as the professional bodies representing lobbyists from across the spectrum. Individuals from trade associations, in-house corporates, NGO’s and consultancies are members of SEAP whose 20 year mission has been to establish the public affairs profession with a view to enhancing proper transparency and ethical behavior for all industry participants.
Twenty years ago the lobbying profession was only just emerging as a career choice and profession. Like the PR industry before it, the PA profession has been maturing under the series of developments including the European Transparency Initiative, recognized courses at universities and the advancement of self-regulating bodies such as SEAP. Members of the profession are now being recognised for the unique skill set they bring to the policy making environment. But with greater maturity as a profession comes a serious responsibility to the democratic system underpinning the policy-making institutions. This revolves around three key facets of which the public affairs professionals in this publication must adhere to: namely transparency and disclosure, appropriate behavior and a deep sense of ethics when interacting with EU decision-makers. If you are a client reading this publication you want to ensure that your consultants follow this path. This means being listed on the European Commission’s European Transparency Initiative which calls for disclosure on lobbying spend, individuals involved and links to other public affairs organisations such as trade associations. A second test is whether the consultancy is a member of EPACA or SEAP which is a badge indicating that they are willing to be beholden to their peers under the Codes of Conduct which govern these organisations. A third test is to ensure that public affairs professionals, in their marketing and activity, are offering services, not access. The era of ‘’access politics’’ should be resigned to history.
Across Europe, governments are debating new laws which would enhance the transparency process and enforce provisions on disclosure. These news laws would, in turn, give credibility to the public affairs profession as an integral part of the policy-making system. At SEAP we always believe that ‘’sunlight is the best disinfectant’’ and voters won’t trust a system where interactions with government are murky and opaque. At SEAP we are working tirelessly to enhance the profession so that you, as a client or consultant, can develop the trusted environment so critical between policy makers and policy takers. We are also urging the counterparties – EU institutional officials and elected Parliamentarians – to abide by the same guidelines. Actively resisting meeting unregistered lobbyists, publicly recording their meetings and policing their own institution for transparency is a step in the right direction.
The public affairs profession is not without its challenges. Looking forward SEAP’s programme for 2019 will cover topical and timely debates on ethics in lobbying, the role of the digital lobbyist and how to create better enforcement of the next edition of the European Transparency Initiative. The use of digital tools brings new innovations to the profession but also raises serious questions about the use of data and how to regulate something that is essentially viral in nature. As the industry matures is needs to stay ahead of the debate and therefore guidelines and further training will be necessary for all practitioners to give assurance that public affairs activity is not being compromised.
We fully support the BestinBrussels.eu publication as another milestone in enhancing the legitimacy of the profession and giving the reader a good look at the public affairs space and it value 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 clients and voters alike know that the profession is being managed at the highest standards. It is our mission at SEAP – make it yours.
Wes Himes, President,
www.seap.be (Join today)