The European Commission has released its second-ever rule-of-law report, which includes updates on how lobbying rules have changed in EU countries in the 10 months since the last report was published. The Commission states  that ‘Lobbying is a legitimate act of political participation,’ and that ‘It needs to be accompanied by strong requirements of transparency and integrity to ensure accountability and inclusiveness in decision-making.’

Austria: The lobbying legislation is under examination. As noted in the 2020 Rule of Law Report, while a legal framework on lobbying is in place, both its scope and the information made publicly available in the lobbying register are limited . The Court of Audit recommends an evaluation of the Lobbying Act in order to examine how international standards on lobbying could be considered more comprehensively, including the introduction of a legislative footprint. The Federal Ministry of Justice has set up a working group in autumn 2020 to examine possible improvements of the legal framework.

Belgium: Certain gaps remain as regards lobbying rules for members of Parliament and rules for interactions between individuals with top executive functions and lobbyists. Everyone who – directly or indirectly – intends to influence the policy-making and decision-making process and its implementation will be required to register. In addition to professional consultancy agencies, in house lobbyists and independent consultants, a wide range of companies and organizations will be covered by the register, including law firms, trade unions, NGO’s, religious representatives, trade associations, think thanks and academic institutions. Note however that certain activities regarding legal or other professional advice will be exempted. Each registrant will be required to provide the register with their personal identification data, the information of the organization they work for and the client they are representing. The lobby register will then be publically available on the website of the Belgian parliament, managed by a designated secretariat. The recommendation of GRECO to adopt rules for interactions between members of Parliament and lobbyists as well as rules governing the relationship between some top executive functions and lobbyists has not been taken up yet .

Bulgaria: Lobbying still lacks dedicated regulation. Although regulation of lobbying is part of the national action plan in response to the 2020 Rule of Law Report , concrete steps forward remain to be taken.

Croatia: Some progress has been made since the 2020 Rule of Law Report in the area of lobbying activities where a comprehensive legislation remains to be introduced. The Government programme for 2020-2024 and the draft proposal of the Anti-Corruption Strategy 2021-2030 envisage the adoption of a comprehensive regulation. A working group has been established by the Ministry of Justice for that purpose. The need to regulate lobbying activities was also highlighted by GRECO, as its recommendations in this area are still not implemented.

Czech Republic: A lobbying regulation to increase transparency in the Czech legislative process is pending adoption since the last reporting period. Contentious areas still discussed concern the exceptions to the definition of lobbyists. The regulation would foresee the establishment of a publicly accessible register of lobbyists and lobbied public officials, the obligation for lobbyists and lobbied public officials to disclose lobby contacts, and the introduction of a ‘legislative footprint’ to disclose who sought to influence which legislative proposal. The register should be maintained by the Office for the Supervision of the Finances of Political Parties and Movements. Failure to disclose could result in fines of approximately EUR 3,860 (CZK 100,000). The regulation of lobbying would also contain stricter rules on declarations on gifts. The threshold for gifts to be reported in the already existing central Register of Conflicts of Interest would be lowered from approximately EUR 400 (CZK 10,000) to approximately EUR 200 (CZK 5,000).

Cyprus: The bill on lobbying has passed the first reading before the relevant Parliamentary Committee, however, there is no indication on the timeline for the final adoption

Denmark: Contacts between decision-makers and lobbyists aiming to influence policy-making remain unregulated. Apart from general rules on confidentiality and conflicts of interest, Ministers and special advisers are not subjected to any rules on lobbying. Also, interest representatives have no duty to report on their activities. As stressed by GRECO, increasing influence of lobbying in decision-making requires further guidance and transparency.

Estonia: Non-binding guidelines on lobbying and on conflict of interests have been put in place. On 18 March 2021, the Government adopted two new sets of guidelines. First, the guidelines on “Good practice in communicating with lobbyists for officials” aim to increase the transparency of policy-making and apply to ministers, their advisers, senior officials in ministries, and government agencies, including the Secretary of State. They are of a voluntary, non-binding nature. The guidelines were adopted on recommendation of GRECO who advised to create a general voluntary lobby register, as well as a voluntary lobbying regime for members of Parliament. However, the document does not specify how the implementation will be promoted: the officials subject to the good practice must read the guidelines, and the head of the concerned authority is tasked with the monitoring of their implementation in practice. The second set, the “Guidelines for ministers and their advisers to avoid conflicts of interest” are applicable for ministers and their counsellors only, and list a set of principles, including as regards revolving doors. The principles advise to abstain from moving to the management or supervisory body of private companies and foundations active in the same field of activity within a year after leaving office. The restriction does not apply to other positions in such a company or foundation. The provisions on implementation require the minister or adviser to familiarise themselves with the guidelines and encourage the completion of a dedicated online course. The adoption of these guidelines, along with a new e-training module on communication with lobbyists, are among the deliverables of the anti-corruption Action Plan 2021-2025. As stated by the Group of States against Corruption of the Council of Europe (GRECO), the rules on revolving doors included in the guidelines represent a concrete and positive step forward

Finland: Lobbying remains unregulated in Finland and legislation on a transparency register is being prepared. The Ministry of Justice has recently published a report examining lobbying practices in Finland. The report identifies lobbying as a widespread practice which often remains in the dark. A dedicated parliamentary working group continues the work on legislation on a transparency register with the aim to improve the decision-making process and to boost public trust. As a first step, it is envisaged to impose an obligation to register on lobbyists that influence decisions at the central government level, excluding local and regional governments, although the scope might later be extended. The act on the transparency register is expected to enter into force in 2023 with the goal to simultaneously introduce an electronic register.

France: The HATVP has proposed to amend the lobbying legislation. The HATVP is responsible for the management of the lobbying register. In November 2020, the rate of declarations received was at 90% of registered lobbyists . In 2020, the HATVP suggested that the lobbying legislation should be amended, as recommended by GRECO, in order to include lobbying individuals (and not only the organisations) initiating the contact with senior officials . No proposal has been put forward by the Government to date . In 2020, the HATVP’s mandate was extended to oversee the implementation of the rules on incompatibilities and revolving doors . On average, 10% of the controlled cases reveal an incompatibility. In 2020, the HATVP issued a decision of incompatibility for a former adviser to a ministerial cabinet.

Germany:  A new federal law to introduce a lobby register for interest representatives was adopted in March 2021 and will become operational on 1 January 2022. The legislation aims at increasing transparency in the federal decision-making process. It introduces rules for lobbying activities toward the German Federal Parliament, the Government and ministries. Stakeholders acknowledge the wide personal scope envisaged, also including lawyers and clients of consultancies who lobby on their behalf. Actors such as trade unions, employer associations, churches and religious communities, as the most important lobby actors in Germany, are however exempt from the mandatory registration requirement. The provision of financial information on amounts invested in the lobbying activities also remains voluntary. Further, the requirement to register concerns only meetings with top-level government officials. The technical level in the ministries, where most of the lobbying regularly takes place, is not included, with the consequence that no track record will exist of such meetings. Failure to comply can be sanctioned with up to EUR 50 000. The electronic lobby register will be operational by 1 January 2022 and will be administered by the Parliament (Bundestag). The introduction of a ‘legislative footprint’ that would allow for the monitoring and tracing of all interest representatives who seek to influence and contribute to specific legislative texts has not received the support of the political majority at the federal level in the debate around the lobby register. The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) has also recommended to improve transparency of external inputs to legislative proposals. Concerns also remain as to the consistent application of Germany’s ‘revolving doors’ rules, including varying cooling-off periods and the large discretion in the decision of superiors regarding future employments of state secretaries and directors general.

Greece: There has been no change as regards regulation of lobbying compared to the previous reporting period. The National Transparency Authority, together with the Ministry of the Interior, has developed a draft law on the regulation of lobbying. The objectives are to establish clear rules and a publicly available registry of lobbyists and lobbying activities. This draft is now subject to public consultation.

Hungary: The regulation of lobbying continues to remain incomplete and lacks systematic enforcement . There is no mandatory registration of lobbyists and disclosure of contact reports. According to a 2013 Government Decree, employees of state administration bodies may only meet interest representatives in relation to their work after informing their superiors, who may prohibit the meeting. Meetings with interest representatives have to be documented but there is no obligation to make the encounters public. GRECO has recommended a clear set of rules in the interaction with lobbyists as regards members of Parliament.

Ireland: Some shortcomings remain with regard to the capacity to enforce the rules on lobbying and revolving doors. The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 created a requirement for a register of lobbyists. The Second Statutory Review of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 was published in February 2020. The Register, which is a web-based system, is overseen by SIPO. There are currently over 2 100 organisations and individuals who have registered on the Register. SIPO has certain enforcement powers under law, including the ability to carry out investigations where it believes a person may have committed a contravention. Furthermore, it has the power to bring and prosecute specific offences, including where a person who is lobbying has not registered. The Regulation also provides for a one year postemployment “cooling off” period, during which particular public officials cannot undertake specific lobbying activities. Apart from the Regulation, there are references to postemployment restrictions in the Code of Conduct for office holders and the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour. Working within limited resources (which it shares with the Office of the Ombudsman), SIPO is not able to pro-actively pursue compliance with codes of conduct. As regards revolving doors, post-employment restrictions are included in the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015, the Code of Conduct for office holders and the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour. However SIPO lacks the necessary powers to monitor irregularities.

Italy: There is no law on lobbying towards members of the Government in place, but several draft laws have been presented to Parliament. The draft laws present the general framework for dealings with interest representatives based on the experience with the Transparency Registers of the Ministry for Economic Development and the Ministry of Labour. There is no specific reference to the introduction of a ‘legislative footprint’ but the Government has committed in the 4th National Action Plan for Open Government to establish a working group on the development of a unified national transparency register, including the public agendas of all decision-makers disclosing meetings with lobbyists . Until an operational lobby register, including a legislative footprint, is in place, regulation of lobbying vis-à-vis the government remains fragmented.

Latvia: Lobbying remains unregulated, while the draft legislation continues to be discussed by the Parliament . To date, there are no rules on lobbying transparency and only a few cases of voluntary publication of meetings between public representatives and lobbyists have been reported. In January 2021, the Parliament’s Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee approved a set of principles on openness and transparency, outlining the prospective content and scope of the lobbying law. According to these principles, the law would need to include, among others, a broad definition of interest representatives, a single mandatory lobby register and sanctions. Moreover, the law would cover activities influencing decisions of members of Parliament, local and national governments, legislative bodies and top executives. The proposal was subject to a public consultation in early 2021, although there is no set date for parliamentary approval. Nevertheless, each public institution currently has a code of ethics, with a specific chapter on lobbying. The oversight and implementation of the codes of ethics are under the competence of trusted persons of ethics, which is a temporary one-year role performed by a selected officer within each institution.

Lithuania: Updated rules on lobbying aim at ensuring more transparency and publicity for meetings between officials and lobbyists. The new amended law on lobbying entered into force in January 2021 and foresees a cross declaration scheme where lobbyists, politicians and public servants must report their meetings in the Register of Lobbyists maintained by the Chief Official Ethics Commission (COEC). According to latest COEC annual report, at the end of 2020, 122 individuals were registered as lobbyists and 273 meetings were registered compared to 209 registered in 2019. The STT has provided the Parliament with its evaluation and recommendations to strengthen the proposed framework .

Luxembourg: Currently, there is no comprehensive regulation on lobbying activities. Members of the Parliament apply their own code of conduct, which regulates in-house meetings but not informal contacts. At the same time, there are no lobbying rules in force for members of the Government and senior advisers.

Malta:  The Commissioner for Standards in Public Life (“the Commissioner”) monitors the ethical conduct of ministers, parliamentary secretaries and members of Parliament. The regulation on lobbying and the codes of ethics for ministers and members of Parliament are currently under review . In 2020, the Commissioner presented a report on the Code of Ethics, which remains to be considered by Parliament .

Netherlands: Former high-level officials are banned from lobbying their former ministry, while former ministers are not allowed to lobby for their former ministry for two years after they have stepped down. However, the framework remains rather limited, as also pointed out by the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) in its assessment, that “the few and limited measures in place in the Netherlands appear insufficient”. The Netherlands has a voluntary and publicly available lobbying register for the House of Representatives in place since 2012. The lobbying register is regularly updated and entails information on the list of entities requesting access to the House of Representatives. To receive a fixed access pass to parliament, a lobbyist must be registered as an organisation. However, there is no monitoring or enforcement mechanism as regards the contacts between lobbyist and office holders or civil servants. In this respect, GRECO recommended when it comes to the contacts between top executive functions and lobbyist, that rules and guidance are ensured, as well as an increase in the transparency of contacts and subject matters.

Poland: A practical guide on conflicts of interest for public officials accompanies the relevant lobbying legislation. A guide entitled ‘Conflict of Interest – What is it and how to avoid it?’ is for Government employees to assist them in the practical implementation of the rules laid down in the Law on Lobbying Activity in the Law-Making Process. In 2020, the Central Anti-Corruption Bureau examined 2 353 conflict of interest issues in the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of National Defence (compared to 2 477 in 2019), covering 1 949 persons (compared to 2 187 in 2019) with no reported cases referred to the Prosecutor’s office. There are three lobby registers in place, one for the Government (based on the lobbying act), one for the lower chamber of the Parliament (Sejm), and one covering its higher chamber (Senate). The Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration is the supervisory body over lobby activities vis-à-vis the government. For lobbying activities towards parliamentarians, the two chambers of the Parliament (Sejm and Senate) have supervisory tasks. Concerns exist as to the effectiveness of the registers. Reportedly, only one interest representative participated in a single parliamentary committee session in 2020, while a total of 508 entities are registered in the registry of the Parliament’s lower chamber. Overall, the number of lobbyists registering continues to decline, oversight is not systematic and no information exists on whether sanctions have been applied to unregistered lobbyists.

Portugal: Lobbying, efforts to pass new legislation regulating lobbying activities are ongoing. Three parliamentary groups have submitted draft legislation aiming to amend the proposed rules so as to overcome the concerns which led to the President veto in 2019. While the parliamentary process is ongoing, there is no information about its timeline for approval and implementation. GRECO has stressed the need to clarify the scope of permissible contacts between members of Parliament and third party interests, which remains to be addressed .

Romania: The absence of rules on lobbying for parliamentarians remains a challenge. As regards codes of conduct for members of the Parliament, the lack of enforcement of the rules has been recently highlighted by GRECO, as well as the lack of rules on how members of Parliament engage with lobbyists, along with clearly defined restrictions concerning gifts, hospitality, favours and other benefits.

Slovenia: Provisions on lobbying for public officers and elected persons continue to improve. Officials and public employees at the national and local level must report contacts with lobbyists, to both their employer and the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption. The Commission processes and publishes the lobbying-related data on its webpage (called Erar), together with the information contained in the registry of lobbying. According to the amended Integrity and Prevention of Corruption Act, also the lobbyists (which now include interest groups, in addition to individual lobbyist), must publish an annual report. In 2020, ethics rules for members of the Parliament were adopted. The Council of the President of the Parliament is responsible to monitor the implementation of the code of ethics and, in case of misconduct, may issue sanctions. Since the adoption of the code of ethics, one sanction for a minor breach was imposed on a member of Parliament.

Slovakia: Slovakia committed to submit a draft law on lobbying in November 2021. The process led by the Government Office is in the initial preparatory stage. There have been several attempts to adopt legislation but so far lobbying remains unregulated in Slovakia. As a result, there are no legal definitions of lobbyists, lobbying activities and lobbying targets, nor effective sanctions for undue lobbying or a legislative footprint in place. However, related legislation and tools allow for the tracking of stakeholder comments and of the extent to which they found entry into a legislative draft. A Code of Ethics for members of Parliament and the introduction of a legislative regulation on post-employment rules (‘revolving doors’) is also planned for 2021. Amendments to the Law on the Protection of the Public Interest have entered into force providing for the obligation to declare gifts or other benefits and the use of movable or immovable property.

Spain: Discussions on lobbying legislation are ongoing and the creation of a transparency register is scheduled for 2022. To date, lobbying is not regulated in Spain at national level. However, the definition of lobbyist is provided under the Parliament code of conduct. Under the various commitments made in the Fourth Open Government Plan, the regulation of lobbying, including the creation of a mandatory registry of lobbyists, is among the priorities to boost public integrity. The draft law was opened to public consultation from 28 April to 28 May 2021; and is expected to provide, among others, a definition of interest groups, a mandatory register for interest representatives and members, as well as a code of conduct governing the obligations of members and lobbyists. In addition, a system of penalties and revolving door limitations between senior officials and public employees is expected to be issued. The Office of Conflicts of Interest is expected to be in charge of the management of the transparency register. The draft is expected to be finalised by October 2021 and approved by the Government in the spring of 2022 before being tabled in the Parliament

Sweden: Lobbying remains unregulated in Sweden. There is no specific obligation for decisionmakers to proactively disclose contacts with interest representatives in a ‘legislative footprint’ to publish information on who sought to influence which legislative proposals and with what resources. Lobbyists and interest representatives are not required to register in a lobby register nor to disclose their clients or financial information related to their lobbying activities. Overall, however, the disclosure of information to the public, transparency and access to information remain the cornerstone in Sweden’s corruption prevention approach.

Add new comment