The Influence of the European Roundtable of Industrialists

Seminar Paper, 2012

11 Pages, Grade: 59


Table of contents

1. What is the European Round Table of Industrialists?

2. ERT history

3. Influence of the ERT

4. Future of the ERT

List of abbreviations

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1. What is the European Round Table of Industrialists?

There are around 1,000 business associations organized and addressed to the European Union (EU) level, which correspond to two-thirds of all EU groups (Greenwood, 2007, p.49). There is a wide range of these business groups, from unique and exclusive businesswide clubs of multinational firms (MNF) through to highly specialist interest organisations (Greenwood, 2007, p.49). The mobilisation of collective action from multinational firms is one of the most important developments in the EU and is a signal of new influential political actors at EU level (Cowles, 1998, p.108). This essay tries to outline what the European Roundtable of Industrialists (ERT) is exactly, how it was founded and whether they have substantial influence, and if so, why and how they organise it.

One of the most important and influential businesswide clubs is the European Roundtable of Industrialists, which is representing around 45 multinational firms of European parentage (Cowles, 1998, p.108; Nollert, 2005, p.299). They describe themselves neither as a business lobby group, nor as a think tank (ERT, 2011). The members cover a wide range of industrial and technological sectors and are situated all over Europe (ERT, 2011). Important member firms are for example Unilever, Nestlé, Siemens, ThyssenKrupp, Philipps, Bayer and BMW (ERT, 2011; Spindler, 2002, p.17). Together they have sales figures of more than 1,000 billion Euros, provide around 6.6 million jobs (ERT, 2011) and are responsible for huge investments, not only in Europe (Richardson, 2000, p.10). The secretariat is now based in Brussels and is regularly publishing articles on different pan-European subjects (Nollert, 2005, p.299). The main concern of the ERT is the creation of conditions necessary to improve European growth and jobs (ERT, 2011).

The membership is only possible by invitation and is rather personal than corporate. Only industrial leaders, for example Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) or Presidents from large and important European firms, are invited (Greenwood, 2007, p.59). The concept of “industrialist” was very important, because it defines the common interest of the ERT. The focus of every firm has to be on an industrial scale (Richardson, 2000, p.10). The election of new members is one of the most important issues within the ERT. Not only tries the ERT to balance the representation from every business sector and country, the firms also have to be substantial, which means a turnover of many billions, a solid reputation and international oriented interests (Richardson, 2000, p.10). Additionally, the ERT looks at the standing and reputation of every single businessman. Without a personal recommendation, it is impossible to become a member (Richardson, 2000, p.10).

The ERT Members meet at plenary sessions twice a year to determine the work programme, set priorities and establish specialised working groups (ERT, 2011). According to Richardson (2000, p.10) usually about two-third of all members show up, despite the fact that no substitutes were allowed. The working groups, which undertake most of the work, are chaired by ERT members and associates of the involved firms (ERT, 2011). They prepare and present proposals to the plenary and play a leading role in drafting official ERT messages. Decisions are taken by consensus (ERT, 2011).

The ERT is more strategy und vision-oriented than interested in everyday politics. Therefore, they are more interested in putting big issues on the EU policy agenda (Greenwood, 2007, p.59). In general, the ERT promotes competition, free market integration and neoliberal deregulation (Spindler, 2002, p.20).

The ERT provides initiatives for collective goods, such as the single European market or trans-European infrastructure networks, from road and rail projects through to telecommunication networks. This prompts the question why business leaders have an appeal to organize themselves at a European level and expend effort in a good from which everyone will benefit. Mancur Olson describes this problem as free ridership. Cowles (1998, p.120) argues that the ERT members receive selective incentives such as the contact with other CEOs and being part of an organisation with high-level contacts right up to high EU politicians. Additionally they gain access to potential contracts for the expansion of the trans-European networks (Cowles, 1998, p.120).

2. ERT history

Two leading European Commissioners, Etienne Davignon and François-Xavier Ortoli, repeatedly asked to whom they should talk to, when they want to talk about European industry. The reason was, that the European industry was facing a crisis while the politicians didn´t understand why and had no suggestions to solve the problem (Richardson, 2000, p.6). In 1983 a group of industrialists, led by Pehr Gyllenhammar of Volvo, responded to this request by setting up an informal panel, called ERT (Richardson, 2000, p.6; Ziltener, 2004, p.956).


Excerpt out of 11 pages


The Influence of the European Roundtable of Industrialists
University of Southampton
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european, roundtable, industrialists, MNF, ERT, European Round Table, membership, firm, collective action, EU, pressure groups, Siemens, Nestlé, influence, political actors, business, clubs, club, industry, industrial
Quote paper
B.A. Stefan Groitl (Author), 2012, The Influence of the European Roundtable of Industrialists, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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