What’s a regional office?

Over 300 representations of EU regional and local authorities are based in Brussels. These offices function act like regional embassies, though they have no officalofficial status. Some of the regions, such as the German Länder, are powerful entities in Brussels, with imposing office buildings and a large staff.

The creation of regional offices is basically the result of two different processes at work in the EU. The first is the growing need of interest groups to gain a voice in the European Union. This process has led in recent years to the development of a powerful lobbying sector, making Brussels, with an estimated 20,000 lobbyists, the second most important lobbying centre in the world, after Washington.

History

The first regional offices were opened in 1984 when both the German Länder as and the British local authorities realised that it could be useful to represent regional interests in Brussels. The different regional offices have been set up with different aims in mind. The German Länder see their role as a political one; their aim is to represent the German states as distinct political entities. Their British counterparts, on the other hand, are normally more concerned with obtaining subsidies under the structural funds. Whereas the German offices represent powerful bodies operating with sizeable budgets, the British regional offices represent local authoritesauthorities, which have only a limited amount of political power and money. Their aim in setting up a Brussels office is to obtain EU funding, often working in partnership with the private sector. Most regional offices in Brussels are based on the German model, though the British approach has also had an impact.

Current situation

The different representations have their own structures, which are largely copied from the institutional models in their home countries. Although these are informal bodies, they are recognised by the European Union as partners to be consulted.  The formal representation of regional and local authorities takes place through the Committee of the Regions (www.cor.europa.eu ). However, an increasing number of European regions choose to also have their own office in Brussels.

The status of the Brussels- Region is somewhat different. The operations and task package of the Europe.Brussels Liaison Office cannot be compared with those of other regional representations. Europe.Brussels does not get involved in interest representation at European level. 

The current Belgian state structure grants major powers to the three Belgian regions, which may be impacted by European legislation, which is why the Brussels Capital Region has its own representatives to the European Union (61-63 Rue de la Loi, 1040 Brussels, Tel: 02 233 03 02, Fax: 02 280 04 40).

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