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The Public Affairs Community of Europe (PACE) members gathered for its annual event on the 20th & 21st October. This is the 12th edition of the event that forms part of the yearly public affairs summit, hosted by the Belgian Public Affairs Association (BEPACT) in Brussels.
The PACE face-to-face event has returned in full-force after two years of being unable to hold it in person with the participation of 9 national public affairs and lobbying association members of PACE. The event brought together representatives from Österreichische Public Affairs Vereinigung (Austria), Asociación de Profesionales de las Relaciones Institucionales (Spain), Il Chiostro (Italy), De’ge’pol (Germany), Slovene Association for Legal Lobbying (Slovenia) Romanian Lobbying Registry Association (Romania), Lobist of Serbia (Serbia), Bepact (Belgium) and Association Française des Conseils en Lobbying (France) to discuss the evolving agenda of public affairs and lobbying all across Europe.
The event opened to the public on the 20th October, starting with a panel discussion on the evolution in transparency regulation and practices and the best way forward. The panel was moderated by Mihael Cigler, the president of the Slovene Association for Legal Lobbying (SALL), who went through several topics regarding lobbying regulation and lobbying activity such as lobbying in the media and lobbying on national and international levels. The panelist brought interesting points and perspectives to the table. Álvaro de Elera, member of the cabinet of Vera Jourova, the Commissioner for Values and Transparency, emphasized that the EU does not have the competence to make lobby regulations obligatory in the different Member States, however the EU has the capacity to recommend and monitor improvements. An example of this is the “Rule of law Report” which encourages Member States to improve transparency standards. Moreover, Mr. de Elera pointed out that “Lobbying is a legitimate act of political participation.” Isabelle De Vinck, president of the European Public Affairs Consultancies’ Association (EPACA), stated the importance of having an open dialogue during the whole legislative process, “It is not about making the lobbyists transparent or the institutions transparent or the politicians, it is about making the process transparent,” she said. On the other hand, Michiel Van Hulten, the director Transparency International EU, highlighted how in the past the EU institutions were models for transparency, but now many Member States have powered ahead in transparency regulations with strong requirements of transparency and integrity to ensure accountability and inclusiveness in decision-making. Dominik Meier, the president of de’ge’pol, the German Public Affairs Association, highlighted that although each country has its own political and lobbying culture, the definition of lobbying and public affairs is vital in determining whether a transparency register will be successful.
Hendrik Van de Velde, Coordinator for the Belgian EU Presidency 2024 presented a keynote speech on the preparations of the rotating EU Council presidency of Belgium. “The presidency is in 14 months. 2024 is in in 14 months. I must repeat it, internally as well, because it seems it is in two years, but it is a shorter period.” said Mr. Van de Velde, adding that 2024 is a busy year for them with European and Belgium elections, including on a regional level. Regarding the Belgium agenda, he gave importance on highlighting the difference between the formal and informal agenda, explaining that both are equally important.
Through the second day, PACE members held an exchange of ideas of a diverse set of projects and initiatives in the field of public affairs and lobbying. Starting with Women in Finance with Claire Godding, Head of Diversity, and Inclusion at BNP Paribas Fortis, followed by DigitAll with Linde Verheyden, Director Public Affairs at BNP Paribas Fortis, and finally, on transparency and ethics in public affairs in EPACA, with Meave Cosgrove, Communications Officer at EPACA.
María Rosa Rotondo, closed the PACE event highlighting the evolving agenda in public affairs, and how the industry is maturing and occupying other territories as well as the need to work together to make public affairs a more successful and sustainable, activity over time.
PACE AISBL is the association of European national Public Affairs and lobbying associations. Yet for PACE, Europe does not end at the borders of the EU: with members from the entire European continent, PACE’s aim is to create a common framework for the European public affairs industry. PACE looks back on a long common history, initially launched by Il Chiostro (Italy) APRI (Spain) in May 2011 as a common platform of national organizations of European public affairs professionals and lobbyists. In the following years, annual meetings – the core events of the network until today – were organized in several European capitals. In 2018, PACE took a step forward and incorporated PACE as an AISBL (international nonprofit organization) in Brussels, to set the ground for an even clearer voice of the Public Affairs Industry in Europe. PACE AISBL currently has twelve members and two associate members.
Irene Matías PACE Secretariat
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