Comparative Politics

The Political Strategies of EU Interest Groups
Over the last decade, the literature on EU interest representation has made
considerable progress by systematically studying the political strategies of various interests
seeking to influence the policy-making process in the EU multi-level system. Two major
political strategies can be distinguished at the EU level and have been characterized by the
labels “access” and “voice” (Bouwen 2002; Beyers, 2004). While some studies have focused
on access strategies undertaken by interests to participate directly in the EU decision-making
process, other investigated the voice strategies of interests seeking to influence policymakers indirectly through media attention and political campaigns.
2.1 Access strategies
The access strategies of private actors focus on the EU institutions that play an
important role in the EU decision-making process, i.e. the European Commission, the
European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. In the literature on EU interest politics, the
European Commission has until recently often been identified as the most important lobbying
target (Coen 1997, Mazey and Richardson, 1999:11). However, the new formal powers
acquired by the European Parliament over the last fifteen years have led to the elevation of
the supranational assembly’s importance as a lobbying target. While it was still possible at
the time of the cooperation procedure to argue that the Parliament was relatively weak, the
situation has changed dramatically. Since the Treaty of Maastricht, the co-decision procedure
has provided the European Parliament with real veto power in the legislative process. The
rise of the Parliament’s powers coincides with a relative decline of the Council of Ministers’