New EP influence matrix – all you need to plan your campaign in advance

You no longer need to resort to stressful fire-fighting: use the new influence matrix to forecast what is going to happen when a decision reaches the European Parliament.  Find out who will try to influence it and in which direction, but also where you have greater odds of being successful.  Save your time and energy by identifying, well in advance, both your allies and those that you can still bring on board from among the hidden influencers in order to maximise your results. 

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For more information, join our dedicated webinar on the 5th of November (10:00 – 10:45 CET). Click HERE to register. 

A special tool for those who want to take a strategic approach to their campaign

The MEP influence matrix is a highly advanced analytical project by the team at VoteWatch Europe that reveals all you need to know when planning your advocacy campaign. This matrix shows you the key pieces of political information that you need to know in order to forecast how a decision will be shaped in the European Parliament:

– what the current balance of power between supporters and opponents is;

– who you should get in your camp in order to secure a favorable majority (many of which are hidden allies or hidden opponents).

Furthermore, the matrix shows you, for each MEP:

– how well placed the MEP is in order to exert influence (e.g. pass amendments) on a specific policy area;

– the direction in which he/she works to influence the decision (i.e. if the MEP is a supporter of your campaign, an opponent or has a nuanced position).

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NB: The value of a political representative as a potential channel for your campaign is given by these two factors: how much he/she can influence a decision and in which direction. We are providing you with both pieces of the puzzle. This can be summarized in this mathematical formula:

Value = Influence * Direction.

For example, it is not enough for an MEP to be influential, you also need them to have the right views, otherwise their value is negative, ie. they will likely be an opponent to your campaign. Or, an MEP can be less influential at this point in time, but they share the right views, in which case they are much more valuable, especially in the long-term.

This mapping is based on key facts and figures that are scientifically weighted based on our 12 years of experience of working with both public and private stakeholders that are involved in influencing EU legislation. Our methodology has been tested successfully over the past few years and it factors in all positions of influence, political networks, voting and activity track records, etc. to help understand the mindsets of the MEPs and forecast how things will unfold. We update this information on a regular basis.

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How to use the matrix

 

 

First select your policy area or topic of interest. In the matrix, you will find:

– On the vertical, the level of influence that each MEP is in a position to exert on that topic at the moment. The higher the MEP is placed, the more influence he/she is in position to exert. MEPs who are placed higher are those who will draft reports and/or can successfully submit amendments to EP reports (i.e. they can leverage influence over their colleagues to make them support their amendments).

– On the horizontal, the direction in which he/she is likely to work to influence a decision in that area. You have to pay attention to what left and right means in that case. The more an MEP is placed at the left or right extreme, the more likely it is that the MEP has already made up his/her mind whether he/she will support/oppose a proposal, e.g. an amendment, a paragraph or the piece of legislation as a whole. MEPs who are roughly in the middle are likely to swing on one side or the other depending on the circumstances of the moment, i.e. who will be lobbying them more successfully and how exactly the amendment/paragraph will be phrased (e.g. more ambitious vs. watered down).

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For the full version of the graph, check out the dedicated report on trade. 

 

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Who should you bring in your camp?

You should of course start with the MEPs that are the most influential and who are likely to support your side of the story, i.e. the top left or top right corner (depending on the direction in which you are lobbying). These MEPs are the best placed to include (or delete) paragraphs or amendments in line with your views. However, don’t spend too much of your time on them, as these MEPs are easy to secure and they may do the work for you even if you don’t bring them new information, simply because they already have the information that has shaped their views in your favor (although be aware that they may always be receiving contrarian information from other sources, which may alter their position).

However, the key to success is to rally the support of the MEPs in the very middle, i.e. those who may be less visible, but who, because of their moderate position, are likely to make the difference. So make sure you closely check what we call the ‘yellow circle of influence’ because those MEPs will eventually decide if a proposal (paragraph, amendment, blockage of a delegated act, or a new law as a whole) will have enough traction to pass or it will be blocked. Be aware that in a very fragmented Parliament as we have now, no one can easily secure a majority and usually a few MEPs can swing the balance of power in favour or against, e.g. the rapporteurs have to alter their positions based on how the other MEPs are positioning, to avoid the embarrassment of being defeated at the time of the votes.

In some cases, the rapporteurs refuse to obey the majority and, as we have seen, they do get defeated (i.e. their reports are reshaped at the time of the votes to such an extent that the rapporteurs ask to have their names removed from the text). Hence experienced professionals do not fall into the trap of thinking that the exact personal views of the rapporteurs will eventually be reflected into the text, but they do pay attention to the rapporteurs’ surrounding environment.

Thirdly, do pay attention to the hidden allies that you can rally among the backbenchers, i.e. those MEPs who are not yet visible or influential, but who do share your views to a large extent. They may not look highly influential now (perhaps because they are too inexperienced or simply lack information that they can leverage), but if they are fueled with substantive information and are placed on a platform (like an intergroup, an interest group or a special committee) they will grow influential. Not rallying these hidden allies is a common mistake which leads to a loss of potential support. Or, the opposite: bringing into these groups MEPs who don’t genuinely share your views will undermine the traction of your campaign, hence make sure you know what they truly stand for by paying attention to their position in the matrix.

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Committee vs. plenary stage

When you want to assess what is the balance of influence in the committee, simply use the committee membership filter and you will see only the information concerning the members of the relevant committee. If the picture doesn’t look favorable when looking at the committee membership alone, it may be worth exploring other avenues. For example, look at the position of MEPs from related committees (those which will submit an opinion), or those of MEPs who can access other channels of influence, e.g. they are the formal or informal leaders of their national party delegation, or they hold a position of influence at the level of the European political group.  These MEPs may have more favourable views and may be more receptive to your campaign.

This can be helpful also taking into account that the plenary stage comes next, where the report is again amended and it is not rare that the majority in the plenary is different from that in the committee, hence it is imperative to track the big picture too.

Experience shows that the ‘yellow circle of influence’ is also the area of the political spectrum from where the future rapporteurs (or commissioners) emerge in the future months and years. It is strategic to develop a rapport with them way in advance, as well as with your hidden allies way before they become influential, as politicians (as all humans) tend to be more receptive to those that supported them when they were down rather than if you simply show up when they are already up (by then, others will have networked them).

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Check the matrix regularly to spot emerging risks and opportunities

Both the level influence and the views of the MEPs are not set in stone, they evolve over time. Several factors lead to such mutations, such as the change in the level of saliency of an issue in the international or national public arena (for instance after a big media campaign triggers substantial public debate), or a change in the direction of the public opinion on the matter (i.e. substantial increase or decrease in public support/opposition).

Other macro-factors driving change are of political/electoral nature. These range from a change of party leadership at home, to the proximity to elections and the moving of a party from opposition to government (or the other way around).

Importantly, changes also concern individual MEPs themselves. For instance, new personal experiences of MEPs (such as learning new information) can lead to a shift in their positions. In other cases, we observe a change in the interests of the MEP (e.g. the MEP becomes involved in a new business or interest group linked to the matter – therefore developing a more nuanced understanding).

All in all, changes in one or more of the variables outlined above can result in more nuanced positions or even substantial swings from one side to the other, hence we do regular monitoring of these variables to anticipate any risks and opportunities.

Important: in any campaign, make sure you respect legal and ethical principles, as well as personal privacy, things that are very cherished in the European Parliament. 

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Discover our influence matrices:

– Part 1: International Trade

– Part 2: Coming soon!

 

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