Brussels, the Capital of LobbyingTHE MOST INTERNATIONAL OF EUROPEAN CITIES, AS TOLD BY ALUMNUS ALESSANDRO GROPELLI, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATION OF THE EUROPEAN TELECOMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATION (ETNO)
Calling it a capital is almost reductive, because since the days of Charles V of Habsburg, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Brussels has been a decision-making center. As it was in 1500, it is still today because the measures approved in the buildings of this city affect the lives of most Europeans. This characteristic is evident by walking in the streets around the Place du Luxembourg. Here you see the institutional buildings, the European Parliament, the Commission, the EU Council. Just as quickly, you realize that the representatives of all European interest groups are present - just take a look at the doorbells of buildings. In fact, in Brussels there are the regions, the religious groups, leading industries and multinationals, consumer associations, and so on for a total of over 25 thousand lobbyists who work to influence the choices of EU policy.
All this, unlike many national capitals, happens in broad daylight: just log onto the European Commission's Transparency Register to discover all the ins and outs of those who are working in Brussels. To get a better idea about this world that gravitates around the buildings of the Union, you can also take the tour organized by the Corporate Europe Observatory, the organization that publishes the Lobby Planet guide.
The daytime life of the European quarter takes place mainly within the institutions which, are for the most part open and available to all European citizens - something that cannot be said for many government buildings in Rome. Life after work then pours out into the many beer bars of Place Lux, as those in the know call the large square in front of the EU Parliament. In these places, friendly exchange takes place even among those who during the day do not defend the same interests. The associations that represent the world of the Internet, for example, organize a series of informal appointments at The Beer Factory aimed at those working in the world of telecommunications, internet and digital innovation, as if to prove that in the face of a Belgian beer there are no borders or rivalries.
Another great catalyst for the habits of those who live in Brussels is Italian food, and the Italian community is also the largest among the foreign residents in Belgium. A stone's throw from Place Lux is the Caffè Italiano, considered by all the best place in the city to enjoy a real espresso accompanied by a filled brioche. To get a full portion of Italian taste, however, the most popular restaurant is the Osteria Bolognese in the popular district of Matongé. Rumor has it that even Angela Merkel has expressed the desire to taste one of the dishes of this place, maybe spaghetti with meat sauce, lasagne or homemade tortellini, but it seems that the Chancellor has not been able to realize this desire as yet.
A graduate of Bocconi’s CLAPI program, he lives in Brussels where he moved in 2009 to work in the European Parliament, dealing with public relations. Subsequently he joined Telecom Italia and then the Vodafone Group as European affairs advisor. In 2013 he became spokesman of the European Telecommunications Association (ETNO), of which he is now director of communication since 2016. In his role, he is responsible for defining the strategic positioning of the association and the telecommunications community in terms of political and industrial messages. The issues currently under discussion are investments in fiber networks and 5G, the next generation of ubiquitous mobile connectivity.
by Ilaria Di Bartolomeis
Translated by Richard Greenslade