To influence the EU legislation, Finnish actors need foresight, preventive action, and active advocacy work with the EU institutions. My keys to successful influencing in Brussels are:
The question of how to get the right information underlines the importance of having a broad network in Brussels and in Finland. It helps to figure out where to go and whom to ask more, because everything is not always explained – or explained well.
During my traineeship, I have been studying, working, and analyzing the EU's ambitious R&I programme Horizon Europe. With its almost 100 billion funding and a wide range of R&I programmes one can assume that one year of working around it will only get you to the start. In addition, lots of information is available; there are plenty of webinars, websites, and policy papers from which one can absorb information.
Luckily, my colleagues have been a huge help in explaining the Horizon Europe apparatus. Moreover, there is also a great international R&I community in Brussels with whom one can exchange information and join forces.
The main principal for influencing and actively following the EU policies is to be there. This is because not only will you be given the right facts and details, but you can also grow your network. In other words, to meet people and participate in events, conferences, dinners, lectures and meetings.
Even though many people might find networking sometimes exhausting or awkward, it has a huge importance here in Brussels. A good, reliable network comes in very handy when you need to know what is happening in different EU policies, because the truth is, that no one can follow everything at the same time.
A good, reliable network comes in very handy when you need to know what is happening in different EU policies, because the truth is, that no one can follow everything at the same time.
A study made by Sitra underlines the fact that Finland is more reactive than proactive when it comes to the early phase influencing. We tend to react to the initiatives of the Commission rather than proactively take part of forming the policies.
Civil servants and officials in the institutions are willing and ready to be influenced. They want to hear comments from stakeholders on how the policies, upcoming and current ones, are felt, as they put it, "on the ground". Strong influence is made by offering them answers to problems with supporting facts rather than expect them to give you the solution.
"How is it in the EU now?" - a question often asked by my fellow Finnish colleagues, friends and relatives while living and working in Brussels. Unfortunately, the question is a great example of the more passive way of thinking and doing. Finland still seems to be an island in the EU and the presence of the Finnish people, businesses and different stakeholders in Brussels are low.
The Finnish public and private sector workers are known for doing an excellent job and being hard workers. Those who are here are widely networked and support their fellow Finnish colleagues beyond the organizational borders. But we all struggle with the same problem: how to get people more actively to come to Brussels and take part in for the EU policy advocacy.
Finnish organizations, like Business Finland, need active actors that are based in Brussels, because the solid network here plays a key role for making an impact. Finland is known of its great examples and our solutions are valued widely in the EU institutions, but they need to be heard. Hence, I would like to courage Finnish businesses and actors to use their voices and be more active in the crucial early phases when EU is forming its policies.
In order to get your message through it is important to think about what you want from the EU. An excellent time for the advocacy work is now: the strategic planning for the Horizon Europe programme for the years 2025-27 has started, and the next Commission is forming its priorities. It is time to take an active part in shaping the EU agenda!
Finnish Liaison Office for Research and Innovation (FiLi-Office)
FiLi-Office is a joint EU office of Business Finland and the Academy of Finland. Its main tasks are monitoring, analyzing and reporting on the developments in the EU R&I policies to home organizations and national stakeholders. In addition, FiLi also facilitates the participation of Finnish players in the European policy implementation.