Engaging with the European Union

If you want to impact on policy in the broadest way possible, engaging with the EU can be very effective. The European Commission (the equivalent of the UK civil service) regularly works with academics and draws extensively on academic research, and there are well-established links between the EU and many research institutions.

The EU generally deals with policy issues that affect all 28 member states as a whole, rather than individual countries or regions, so this is the route to follow if your research has high-level, or general, rather than nationally-specific, implications.

However, in some cases, it can also be helpful to engage with EU officials even if your research has regional impact, as EU policy can have very substantial effects on specific regions, particularly on issues to do with agriculture and fisheries, human rights, culture and heritage, and research and higher education. Find out which agencies have oversight for your area: they may be local, national, or European, and a multi-pronged approach may fit best.

Unlike the UK central government and civil service, you’ll find that the EU is much more transparent and accessible. Not only are Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) contactable in much the same way as MPs, but within the Commission, Commissioners (analogous to government ministers) and their staff can be freely contacted. The Commission is also represented by offices in all EU countries which act as facilitators between the Commission and external stakeholders. It is set up to enable free access and lobbying, and all EU institutions are founded on principles of openness and transparency. There is even an EU staff directory.

Who to contact

This openness does not always mean that it’s easier to get in touch with the person you need to speak to, however. Both the European Parliament and the Commission have websites with extensive information and contacts; the challenge is to find what you need amidst a huge volume of information.

Whether you want to engage with your MEP or the Commission, your first point of call should be the UK office.

The European Parliament Information Office in the UK is your first contact for all information relating to the European Parliament. There you will find contact details for the MEPs in your region; you’ll also find information about what committees they sit on and therefore what policy areas they work on. Each Information Office has a dedicated Outreach Officer who will be able to provide further advice and contacts.

The European Commission Representation in the UK represents the Commission in the UK and is the first contact point if you want advice or information on contacting a Commissioner or their staff. They can provide introductions, arrange stakeholder trips to Brussels, or bring Commission staff out to the UK to meet you.

This section considers:

Engaging with the European Parliament
Engaging with the European Commission