In Brussels, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) lobby hard on issues that are already on the political agenda, while companies lobby on issues they would like to see added to the agenda. ‘And ultimately, influence on agenda setting carries far more weight,’ says political scientist Marcel Hanegraaff, who studied how lobbyists influence agenda setting in the European Union. According to Hanegraaff, the growing influence of companies – and multinationals in particular – can be problematic because they often focus on their own interests and the short term.
Political scientist Marcel Hanegraaff’s interest in agenda-setting lobbying was triggered by previous studies on corporate lobbying in the European Union. These studies concluded that corporate lobbying is no longer as influential as it used to be. This conclusion was at odds with public opinion and really surprised Hanegraaff too. He discovered the absence of an important policy phase in these studies. ‘They looked at how lobbyists try to exert influence as soon as issues are put on the agenda and policy is being developed. However, they failed to consider who influences what actually gets onto the agenda.’
With this in mind, Hanegraaff decided to focus on how the political agenda in Brussels is set and found an influential lobbying group made up of multinationals in particular. The growing influence of multinationals on agenda setting can be problematic because most of them are for-profit companies and focus on the short-term.