European Integration

A number of systematic studies on EU interest politics have investigated the direct
access of interest groups to the three main EU institutions, i.e. the Commission, the
Parliament and the Council (Pappi and Henning, 1999; Beyers, 2002; Bouwen, 2004a; Eising
2004). Frequently, private interests undertake combined access strategies to the three main
EU institutions in order to exert influence at the various stages of the EU legislative process.
Other studies have limited their analysis to the access strategies of private interests to a
specific EU institution (Kohler-Koch, 1997; Bouwen, 2004b). In that case, a single EU
institution is analyzed in order to reveal its crucial access points for private interests. All these
investigations focus their analysis on access instead of influence, as more traditional
lobbying research tends to do because they seekto avoid the methodologically problematic
enterprise of trying to measure influence (Huberts and Kleinnijenhuis, 1994). Nevertheless, it
should be emphasized that access does not automatically mean influence. Political actors
might gain access to the policy-making process without being able to translate this advantage
into concrete policy outcomes. Moreover, as the subsequent discussion of voice will show,
influence does not always require that actors have direct institutional access.
There is agreement in the literature that access strategies are related to an exchange
process between private and public actors at the EU level (Levine, and White, 1961:578;
Peffer and Salancik, 1978). In return for “access” to the EU agenda-setting and policy-making
process, the EU institutions want certain goods from the private actors. Private interests have
to provide these goods, called “access goods”(Bouwen, 2002:370). to the EU institutions in
order to gain access. The EU institutions need these goods in order to fulfill or expand their
role in the EU decision-making process. The access goods that can be identified have a
common characteristic: information.2
The direct interaction between private and public actors
allows the transmission of complex technical information. However, political information is
also exchanged.