Cowles, Maria Green. (1995) "Big Business and Two Level Games: Conceptualizing the Role of Large Firms in EU Affairs". In: UNSPECIFIED, Charleston, South Carolina. (Unpublished)
The political role and activities of European big business have changed dramatically since the inception of the European Union (EU). In the early years, Jean Monnet viewed large European companies as too nationalistic to support the European project, and excluded their leaders from the roster of his Action Committee for Europe. For their part, the firms were largely uninterested in Monnet's plans. As a result, the Common Market was laid and developed without the input or support of big business. The situation began to change by the mid-1970s when a handful of these large companies -primarily British and American -- started to pay attention to Community legislation directed at multinational enterprises (MNEs). The turning point occurred in the early 1980s when members of the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) developed a new relationship with the European Commission, met directly government leaders, and conducted private campaigns to relaunch Europe with an industrial initiative, the Single Market program. Today, with the development of the Single Market program and the qualified majority voting system created by the Single European Act, the political-legal reality for these firms has been altered significantly. Business groups recognize that over 60 percent of all legislation directed at industry is now made in Brussels -not Bonn, Paris or London. The focus of European big business, therefore, is not merely on what the European Union will be, but on what it is. In short, large European companies have become political actors in their own right. Understanding the power of big business has proven to be a difficult task for academics. Comparative politics scholars talk of "lobbying" of firms but give little guide to the constrain.ts, opportunities and relationships involved. International relations scholars discuss the "attitudes" but not the power of big business. Or they ignore the influence of the large firms at the European/international level altogether. This paper suggests that one must acknowledge the larger state/society institutions of the EU to recognize the role of big business in EU two-level games. In doing so, one acknowledges not only the areas in which large firms exert their power in EU policymaking, but also the manner in which European big business itself helps to "structure" the European Union itself.
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