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Research Project: EU Affairs

The Professionalization of European Public Affairs. Conditions, Forms and Consequences of Professional Interest Representation at the European Union

Staff: Prof. Dr. Christian Lahusen, Frank Borchers
Duration: May 2014 – March 2019
Financed by: German Research Fund (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) - Grant Agreement No. LA 1117/6-1

Project description

Previous research has assembled considerable knowledge about interest groups, organizations and organizational forms at the European Union. However, until now we know very little about the personnel, its professional background, career patterns, professional beliefs and identities. Our project aims to shed systematic light into this area of analysis by answering a number of questions. Is the field of European Public Affairs marked primarily by diversity (e.g., occupations, language groups, national legacies), or does the personnel have certain traits in common (e.g., academic background, skills, networks, identities)? Is this field undergoing a process of professionalization that establishes an occupational field with ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’? And what are the consequences of this potential development for the personnel itself and the field of interest groups they work for?

Our project is devoted to a sociological analysis of professions and professional behavior. It argues that professions have a structuring impact on the field of interest representation. Indeed, previous research might be correct in their assessment that EU Public Affairs and lobbying is exposed to a steady process of pluralisation and fragmentation, when looking at the variety of interest groups and the organizational competition it unleashes. However, professional groups might influence the field as well. On the one hand, it is possible that the variety of professional groups involved in EU Public Affairs and lobbying might increase the centrifugal forces of the field, due to competing occupations, national allegiances and interests. On the other hand, we might be witnessing a joint process of professionalization within the European arena. This process might contribute to the establishment of a more integrated occupational field with shared skills, networks and identities that bridges the internal diversity and patterns the forms of interest representation.

The work-plan of this project consists of three major work packages that are devoted to generate three different types of data.

·       Our project started with an analysis of the institutional contexts of EU lobbying. Here, we collected available data on various contextual factors: employers and clients, EU institutions and regulations, educational institutions and forms of vocational training, mass media attention and news coverage, and professional associations.

·       Our empirical analyses made use of an extended fieldwork in Brussels. This research build on participant observation, that is, we participated actively in the daily working routines, meetings and conferences. We thus gathered a set of materials (field notes and interview transcripts) that provides rich insights into the practices, skills and identities of EU public affairs professionals.

·       A standardized survey among EU Affairs professionals was conducted. The survey assembles systematic data on the staff’s professional background, current activities, skills and contacts, professional attitudes and identities. The sample was drawn from the European Transparency Register and further sources. The survey was conducted by the German SUZ (‘Sozialwissenschaftliches Umfragezentrum’) on behalf of the University of Siegen.

Report about the main findings of the survey

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