Timme Bertolt Døssing interviewed in Danish business newspaper
The Political Mercenary
He is not elected, but still has an influence on European legislation. For Timme Bertolt Døssing Lobbying is an art form that combines political know-how with social skills and a huge network.
He is not elected, but still has a hand in the formulation of legislation on everything from enzymes to claims of waste in the UK, and he has helped write parts of the EU Postal Directive. It was eight years ago that Timme Bertolt Døssing founded Cabinet DN with Jacob Nielsen. Today he is the co-owner of the largest independent Lobby of its kind in Brussels.
Timme Bertolt Døssing came to Brussels in 2001 as Assistant to the Social Democratic MEP Torben Lund, and after a short detour via a political consumer organization he decided to make political maneuvering a career path.
It is because of his know-how that companies are now calling from all corners of the globe to buy political influence. His customers include companies and industry organizations that want to stay informed of the legislative process in certain areas or are seeking lobbying campaigns to influence the process in a certain direction. Others will need help to set the agenda or want someone standing by in case of an emergency, an unwanted case suddenly getting too much attention for example.
“Danish companies did not have the foresight to come to Brussels to gain influence, and those who tried, were not very professional in their approach,” says Timme Bertolt Døssing.
“The closest one can compare the lobbying industry with are probably lawyers. We have a number of clients, and we represent their views in the same way that a lawyer may represent a client one day and another client the next. “There is often a lot of criticism of lobbyists and the industry is shrouded in mystery and accusations of improper influence to business. Is lobbying a democratic problem?”
“I believe the contrary, lobbying is a crucial part of a functioning democracy. It can be incredibly difficult for parliamentarians and officials to foresee the consequences of a piece of legislation. If no one complains about the proposals, they will assume all is well. But this is not always the case, so lobbyists working on behalf of companies to inform the decision makers on what the law is going to mean in reality, and it helps in some cases to find alternatives that are more appropriate. In principle everyone can do it, but not everyone has the time or knowledge of how to go about it, and they lack a European network to draw on. Therefore, they come to us, “says Timme Bertolt Døssing.
A matter of money
The criticism is that only those with enough money are being heard?
“We should remember that climate activists and aid agencies are also lobbyists. They fight for cases in which they have a direct economic self-interest. The number of lobbyists in Brussels has increased significantly in the last ten years, but it is naive to think that if lobbyists did not exist, then everything would be perfect, and everyone would be heard. It’s a good thing that we are many of us, because it means that there are more voices and differing opinions are heard. The EU is home to nearly half a billion people, in this respect 15,000 lobbyists in EU capital does not seem excessive. In Denmark there are 5 million people and there are at least 1,500 lobbyists if one includes trade associations and trade unions. So the number in Denmark is much larger, relatively.”
What characterizes a good lobbyist?
‘One might get something through quickly by lying about the facts, but you will burn your bridges this way. The good lobbyist is one who has integrity and will be respected and listened to time and again. One that constantly expands his network, and this can only be done by working openly and being honest about one’s position. People are typically stationed in Brussels for two or three years, while the House changes every five years. So one must be dynamic and build relationships constantly.
‘Lobbying is a bipartisan exercise that combines knowledge of the political process, social capital and a sense of when and how to reach out to the appropriate contacts. Some must have long reports and facts. Others will have three bullet points over a cup of coffee.”
Do you see a problem in that the officials or elected representatives will enter directly into a lobbyist job when leaving the EU? ‘
There should be a cooling off period, for it is problematic if one leaves, for example, the Commission and goes directly to a company working in the field, you have been focussed on. It gives an unfair advantage because you would take a lot of knowledge with you that you otherwise would not have had. But having said that, it is natural that a politician or civil servant goes into public affairs, because that is what they know. There is an open system, people are registered, and all documents are published, so I do not see a problem with it. In many areas there is more openness in the EU than there is in national Parliaments. ‘
What is your attitude to lobbying records?
“We are registered, otherwise you can not get permanent access to Parliament or get on the Commission’s mailing lists. Many thought that the records would get a handle on lobbying, but it is voluntary and does not cover all. Lawyers and think-tanks, for example, do not register themselves, although they also are often lobbying. If records can defuse the issue of lobbying, I have no problem with it. “