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Power and Influence of Interest Groups in the European Union

Power and Influence of Interest Groups in the European Union
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  • 0:02 EU Interest Groups
  • 0:37 Definition of Interest Groups
  • 2:05 Influence in Europe
  • 5:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we discover the definition of an interest group and explore the evolution and nature of interest groups in Europe around the European Union.

EU Interest Groups

Have you ever tried to influence something in which you had no part for your own benefit? Perhaps you tried to get your brother to choose pizza for dinner on his night to pick, or perhaps you tried to persuade your coach to choose a team jersey that you particularly fancied. Chances are you had to lobby, cajole, and even make a few deals to achieve your goal. Probably without realizing it, you just acted as your own little special interest group. In this lesson, we will define exactly what an interest group is and the types of interest groups that exist in Europe, and specifically, those that interact with the European Union.

Definition of Interest Groups

Interest groups are individuals or groups of people who, without being part of the political process, attempt to influence its results. The term 'interest group' encapsulates a wide variety of possible groups or individuals. Individuals who write to petition their delegate, standing groups of individuals, like unions or trade organizations, that continuously pressure politicians, or special industry groups, which employ lobbyists to make deals with politicians - all are considered interest groups. Though the term interest group broadly defines many different organizations, there are a few basic parameters for being considered an interest group.

First of all, it has to be a well-defined group. Examples of this would be a trade union, or an organization strictly created to advance the interests of a certain product or sector of the economy, such as proponents of corn-based products or groups trying to raise the awareness of pollution in rivers. This specifically excludes broad-based political movements, such as the Tea Party movement in the United States.

Secondly, interest groups' main priority has to be influencing the political process to further the cause of their product or organization. Finally, the interactions between these groups and politicians have to be generally outside the normal confines of government. This does not mean illegal - merely that politicians meet with lobbyists and other interest group representatives at dinners, parties, and other informal meetings and not in committees, public hearings, or other normal government meetings.

Influence in Europe

The European Union (EU), Europe's supranational government made up of 28 nations, has special interest groups like any other government. Though it is impossible to know exactly how many interest groups exist that lobby or make deals with EU officials, many scholars and commentators assume that the nature of EU government begets a larger and more diverse set of interest groups or lobbyists than in singular nations. This is because the EU does not only create policy for the entire European Union, but it also determines for itself the regulations and rules by which aid can be given.

In other words, not only do interest groups need to lobby the EU to gain better concessions for their own particular interests, but they also need to lobby the EU to change the rules to make it easier for the EU to give their particular interest group a better deal. Furthermore, the fact that the EU makes broad policy for decisions for 28 separate nations can have wide-reaching effects that cause both regional and national interest groups to have the same impetus to lobby the EU as larger, multinational corporations or organizations.

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