Maybe the concept of lobbying or lobbyists is still too far away from you, the "normal European citizen." And it is especially because the idea is so far beyond us that none of us wants to touch it or explain it. But you will talk about it, think about it, and discuss it when the topic is put on the silver screen. That's why when Matthieu Lietaert and Freidrich Moser created a documentary with a twist of the thriller about it, it got Brussels and Europe talking.

Lobbying on screen: "The Brussels Business: who Runs the EU?"

One evening, back in 2008, while Matthieu Lietaert was preparing for a lecture, he got an email from Friedrich Moser saying: "Hey! I've heard you're doing a movie about lobbying. Let's do it together."

A few days later, after a 500-kilometre train ride, Moser and his assistant were in Lietaert's kitchen, eating pasta and talking about the documentary The Brussels Business: Who runs the EU?. 

Lietaert had great knowledge about lobbying - he did his doctoral thesis on lobbying in Brussels, and was interested in filmmaking; Moser - an accomplished filmmaker already - was learning about lobbying at the European Training Institute at the time.

"Fritz [Friedrich] managed to do stuff that I, as a researcher, was never able to do. As researchers we get facts, boring facts and that's all we need. To make a film you need to get to a deeper level," explains Lietaert.

The 'conspiracy' label was of course associated with the film because of its attempt to unveil the businesses that influence EU policy making. 

"It's not a conspiracy," says Lietaert. He and Moser managed to get people from different backgrounds to explain the story: Olivier Hoedeman and Erik Wesselius from the Corporate Europe Observatory, and Pascal Kerneis who is "Mr Services - the person representing forty international companies and about forty national associations, all talking and working on services," he adds. 

Trailer of Matthieu Lietaert and Friedrich Moser's documentary which aims at 

For Moser it was important how he was going to tell the story. He knew that it had to have a linear structure. But for it to be interesting he also had to find a way of progressing in knowledge to create the full picture. The viewer had to learn gradually "what was going on behind the scenes in Brussels" and that's why they chose to use a detective story.

"A detective discovers something that should not be there in the open," he explained.

The two make it quite clear that the film isn't anti-Europe or anti-lobbying but it's for a more democratic Europe; it's more of a political campaign. Lobbyists are part of our democracy whether we like it or not. The problem is the lack of a firm regulatory body in Brussels to make sure that lobby groups are performing their duties in European democracy. Compared to Washington, there is no clear set of rules in Europe. The registration which is currently on a voluntary basis should be made mandatory, as the lobbyists are ready to 'shape debate' with huge budgets - the annual budget spent on lobbying activities in Washington is 3.5 billion US dollars. In Brussels, we have no numbers because of the lack of transparency. 

The two make it quite clear that the film isn’t anti-Europe or anti-lobbying but it’s for a more democratic Europe

"The problem in Brussels is that the EU is also a union of democratic antithesis; the union itself with its institutions is not really democratic. It has a huge deficit because actually the European government is, if you look at it, the European Commission. Nobody of those is directly elected. This creates a problem of legitimacy, of responsibility, of accountability. Around this 'unelected body' that is so influential in creating legislation in Europe - 80% of which touches the direct life of every European citizen - we've got expert groups advising them how to make the policies," Moser says.

But the problem isn't so much of the existence of these expert groups. "What is not transparent is the way these expert groups are selected.” 

Most of the quotes we used are included in a private video (Directors’ comments) courtesy of Matthieu Lietaert and Friedrich Moser. 

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