Home » How to get over your X
Bilateral Relations Brussels Business Defence Economy Environment Europe European Union Featured Global News National Security News Social World News

How to get over your X

Howdy. Welcome to your last August edition of EU Influence. As we head into a campaign season that’s likely to set a new precedent for partisan divides, we’ve found that there are likewise two kinds of lobbyists. There are those who predict a lurch to the far right in the European Parliament come 2024 — so you’ll need a seasoned lobbyist to help you navigate that brave new world. And there are those who say all this alarm about a major shift is overblown and unlikely to play out — so you’ll need a seasoned lobbyist who’s learned how to navigate Brussels’ obscure labyrinths. 


Spotted on X, from the head of comms at DIGITALEUROPE.


MANIFESTO DESTINY: The European-level political parties are making it easier to weigh in on their campaign policy platforms ahead of the 2024 European Parliament elections. At this point, it’s not clear whether this will turn into a significant new avenue for influencing the next mandate — or a massive time suck yielding minimal concrete results. However, there is cause to consider that perhaps building relationships in the umbrella parties’ policy shops could bear fruit in the long run — and not just with the institutions at stake in the elections, the Commission and Parliament, but also with the Council. 

Why bother? The Parliament elections are 27 national contests with campaigns run by national parties — at this point, without a credible Spitzenkandidat or lead candidate system. Given these 27 different sets of facts on the ground, it can seem pointless to engage with a manifesto that no one is actually going to run on (and that voters might never pay attention to). 

The prize: Yet the EU manifestos amount to the parties’ wish lists as they negotiate the work program of the next Commission. 

Pan-European campaign: Advocates of a truly pan-European election, including transnational lists and a true lead candidate for Commission, haven’t made much progress. Yet the parties, contends The Good Lobby founder Alberto Alemanno, are at least feeling pressure to be more visible to the average voter. 

Even if “the rules of the game haven’t changed, the European political conversation has to change — because inevitably, many of the challenges facing the European continent do require pan-European solutions,” said Alemanno, whose team created a new tracker to help civil society get more involved. Parties are soliciting new ideas earlier and with greater intensity than ever, including with formalized processes that haven’t existed in the past.

SOCIALISTS — BIGGER TENT: The Party of European Socialists started a formal consultation process in 2019 with 80 nongovernmental organizations. This time, they invited 270 groups (including unions) to weigh in with their three priorities and policy wishes. So far, about a third have replied, said party Deputy Secretary General Yonnec Polet, and those shall be followed up by more detailed consultations organized around different themes over the coming months. (Didn’t get invited to contribute? Just send them a message.)

EU Influence asked if PES is open to feedback from industry associations. “We will not, per se, say no,” Polet said. But there has to be a values match — so those working on the green or digital transition, for example, he said. Corporates might be better off going through national parties if they’re big players in the local economy. 

LIBERALS — ROADSHOW: The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) has scheduled a series of town halls in Denmark and Portugal, with gatherings in Lithuania and Rome still to come. A portal for submitting ideas is open until September 30. 

German Renew MEP Svenja Hahn, chair of the drafting committee, said the party realized from early meetings with industry and NGOs that previous manifestos simply didn’t have anything to say about some of today’s most pressing issues.

“I wanted to create a truly inclusive open process, because I truly believe the era of copy-pasting manifestos is over,” Hahn told EU Influence. 

CENTER-RIGHT — COMING SOON: The European People’s Party is planning to discuss the manifesto process in more detail at political meetings next week — things have been a bit up in the air as Europe’s conservatives wait for Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s plans to become more concrete. National parties have until September 29 to send in their priorities, a spokesperson said, but a more open process is likely on the way. For example, EPP Secretary General Thanasis Bakolas wants to propose a “microsite” or portal for citizens and civil society to send in their ideas. 

Top target: Last cycle’s EPP campaign actually illustrates the real link between the EU manifesto and Commission priorities: MEP Manfred Weber, then the EPP’s Spitzenkandidat, pledged to search for a cure to cancer — and the Commission quickly proposed Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan. (The loss of a sibling to cancer is a sad experience in common for feuding EPP leaders Weber and von der Leyen.) 

That also shows the importance of convincing the spitz: As the socialists’ lead candidate, Timmermans took a personal interest in campaigning on housing. 

Extreme strategy: Brussels consultants have typically avoided engaging much on far-right parties’ platforms. But we heard about one strategist’s plan for a ricochet of sorts by pleading a client’s case to an extreme party on the national level: If they take up the client’s cause, that could put pressure on the mainstream party to adopt the same idea to avoid losing votes.

YOUR PATH TO THE COUNCIL: Election-season introductions can create valuable connections with key party players who are often hard to reach for Brussels players.

The EU-level parties act as “the glue that keeps everything together” among ministers from different countries, said Wouter Wolfs, a researcher at KU Leuven’s Public Governance Institute. He’s co-author of a recent paper looking at the influence of the parties on EU policy. Ahead of Council of Ministers meetings, they convene policy planning meetings to get ministers from different countries on the same page and align priorities.

PES, for example, makes a habit of inviting NGOs to these meetings. So for Polet, engaging with civil society is not a matter of parties simply saying ahead of the election, “‘Please give us your opinion, and then see you five years later.’” Instead, he said, “It’s a matter of working relations” over the longer term.

**Join us on September 18, as we delve into the pressing question: “is Europe losing the hydrogen race?” at  POLITICO Live event. We will explore the challenges and opportunities with Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, CEO of Hydrogen Europe, and MEP Jutta Paulus (Greens, Germany) among others experts. Save your seat today!**


FULL DISCLOSURE: The Schuman Show cast is absolutely infested with journalists, including from POLITICO. So, let’s face it, this 10-minute lobbying exposé isn’t the Brussels bubble comedy troupe’s funniest skit. But content-wise, it’s no surprise that it was edited by one of the EU’s top investigative reporters: Follow the Money’s Lise Witteman. 

Pay for play: People grumble about the price of POLITICO Pro subscriptions, and who hasn’t Googled an FT headline to read it for free? But if people shell out to send actress Kelly Agathos to the closed-press Eurofi conference — a schmooze-fest for big banks and their regulators — in the name of laughs rather than journalism, we’re all for it. (€15 down, €49,985 to go, according to our latest check of GoFundMe.)

For the record: This jargon-filled romp remains the Schuman Show’s funniest taped skit. It’s required viewing for aspiring experts in EU bodies. 


TAKEAWAYS ON THE STATE OF SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY: In honor of the Digital Services Act compliance deadline, the coming campaign season, and the general state of chaos on X, EU Influence checked in with Brussels bubble digital strategists for their latest thoughts on how to lobby online. Here are the key points that emerged from Philip Weiss, founder of the digital consultancy ZN; Vanessa Terrier, senior communications consultant at SECNewgate EU; and Nadia Chergui, founder of CAT Social Media. 

1 — Diversify, diversify, diversify: Ugh, it is so much harder to have to spread your resources and energy around. But if Mastodon’s flop showed us anything, it’s that there’s no sign of a single town square for the EU policy set emerging to cleanly replace Twitter.

“Whatever happens, the fragmentation will continue, and so you should not be committed to only a single channel,” said Weiss. Different policy communities congregating on different platforms has made the calculations for ZN’s EU Influencers ranking, coming up on September 12, way more complicated.

And though old-school techniques like Google Ad Words and SEO never went away, Terrier said, they’re taking up a “bigger chunk” of budgets than in the recent past. Oh, and full disclosure: Weiss says this is good for the likes of POLITICO. “This chaos will also benefit some of those press channels because you kind of know what you’re going to get” from paid advertisements, he said. 

2 — LinkedIn is getting, uh, cool? “We’ve been pushing deeper and deeper into LinkedIn,” Weiss said, echoing his colleagues. 

In EU Influence’s view, it’s no surprise that the bubble loves LinkedIn. You can post your entire position paper, talk only to the people who will understand your nuances and generally avoid dealing with regular citizens. But, well, maybe we should be less judgy, we heard. 

“We’re seeing it as more of a playful place — and a serious place,” said Chergui, who founded CAT two years ago after working at Cefic and the U.K. Perm Rep. The Twitter-style meme she posted on LinkedIn (and that put her on EU Influence’s radar), for example, “would not have landed even four or five years ago,” she said.

3 — The medium is the message … but that is changing: About that meme — TikTok is still not really a thing for EU policy comms, and that’s not just because it’s been banned for much of lobbyists’ target audience. Cautious organizations make a “political decision” to avoid an app that’s been associated with state snooping, Weiss said. 

But the calculation is different for the politicians themselves, who are still talking to young people on the video-sharing platform. 

Likewise, people are reluctant to have the Blue Tick showing they were paying for Twitter verification because “it felt like you were endorsing Elon Musk,” Terrier said. (For organizations, that meant they couldn’t pay to promote tweets, either.) “That seems to be fading,” she observed.

4 — Clinging to the dead bird: The surge in downloads of Threads from Meta in the U.S. and U.K. shows that “people are desperate for a Twitter-like channel,” said Chergui, “and also there’s a huge potential for untapped audiences.” Yet it’s unclear if people are actually using Threads consistently — or when it will come to Europe.

Ultimately, few want to start fresh after painstakingly building up followers. Despite expectations of a mass exodus, it’s still largely “business as usual” on Musk’s app for EU power players. “Our job is to go where our audience is, and if our EU policymakers are still on X, then that’s where we need to be,” Terrier said.

Adding hope that X can be redeemed: A (LinkedIn) post recruiting people to work on election integrity at X. 


ALEX SOROS SPEAKS: “We are not leaving,” writes Alex Soros, who recently took over leadership of the Open Society Foundations from his father, George. In an opinion piece for POLITICO, Soros writes that reports OSF, a major funder of NGOs in Brussels and around the Continent, is “‘leaving Europe’ are misleading.”  

Parsing words: One might argue this denial about “leaving Europe” is a bit of a straw man: As POLITICO and others have reported, OSF is eying major cuts for groups working within the European Union as part of a major reorganization. So Soros’ reiteration that OSF is staying in Ukraine, Moldova, and the Western Balkans, as well as continuing (with a “dramatic increase”) its funding to Roma communities, is unlikely to reassure those facing layoffs (either at OSF or groups that rely on that money) in Berlin, Brussels and elsewhere around the EU27.  

SAVING EU FROM TRUMP: Soros contends that he’s showing his devotion to the EU by protecting the bloc from a bigger threat: Donald Trump. “I believe a MAGA-style Republican victory in next year’s U.S. presidential election could, in the end, be worse for the EU than for the U.S.” Read the full opinion piece.

**On September 19, POLITICO will host a panel discussion “Open Finance: the battle for data”. This event convenes a high-level debate with experts to discuss the protection of consumer data and the European Commission’s recently published legislative proposal for a new open finance framework. Register today for onsite participation.**

OPEN SEASON FOR FINANCIAL FEEDBACK: Politicians come and go, but bureaucracy is forever. That means your regularly scheduled late-mandate lobbying push in the Commission starts now. 

Get in the mood: As my colleague Hannah Brenton reports, the Commission’s financial services department (DG FISMA) is starting to put together a mood board of policy options for whoever takes the helm as the next finance commissioner in about a year’s time. Officials have already started quietly asking what’s top of their wish list in the financial industry as they contemplate what could make a splash politically in the next five-year mandate.


SPLITTING THE CLIMATE PORTFOLIO: Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed to nominate Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra to replace Frans Timmermans as climate commissioner. Assuming Hoekstra wins the Parliament’s approval, he’ll work “under the guidance” of Maroš Šefčovič, who was named executive vice president for the European Green Deal last week, von der Leyen said. 


— Thomas Guether, chief growth officer for Compass Group Europe & Middle East, was elected president of FoodServiceEurope. He succeeds Michel Croisé, CEO of Sodexo Belgium.

— After some eight years at European Food Safety Agency’s Parma headquarters, Flavio Fergnani is moving to the Brussels liaison office. 


— Christian Skrivervik is leaving European Movement International to become the communications lead at the European Environmental Bureau, starting September 18.


— FleishmanHillard EU hired Benedetta Albano as an account executive.

— Chris-Irina Sela is also a new account executive at FleishmanHillard EU.


— Sophie Dayraut is now an EU adviser at the Finnish utility Fortum, via nucleareurope.

— Aldo ForteEnel’s former head of European institutional affairs and funding, has moved back to Rome and became the head of people and organization in Italy for the gas and electricity company. Michele Bologna, head of Enel’s Brussels office, has temporarily taken on Forte’s previous role.


— Jacqueline Bowman-Busato has been named an expert (citizens, consumers and patients) at the European Medicines Agency in her capacity as volunteer for the Foundation for the Rights of Citizens with Obesity. Her day job is head of policy for the European Association for the Study of Obesity (EASO).


— Teresa Selvaggio, previously of Enel, joined LightingEurope as director of public affairs.

— Simon Wessels also recently joined LightingEurope as a policy officer, via Grayling.


— Cristina Falcone is leaving her post as UPS’s VP of corporate affairs in Brussels to work on the international corporate affairs strategy from the company’s HQ in Atlanta, Georgia, in the U.S. 


— Olalla Benito Rodríguez has been promoted to head of cabinet for Spanish Renew MEP Susana Solís Pérez, replacing Lucía Martínez Maroto.

Thanks to: Hannah Brenton and Mark Scott; web producer Lola Boom and my editor Sonya Diehn.