21.02.2020

Politicians and PR managers trying to lay down lobbying rules

Read the article on ERR.

Politicians and Transparency International Estonia are discussing how to organize lobbying in Estonia. The field is not regulated today, while introducing a set of rules would render society more transparent, Transparency International finds.
Executive manager of the nonprofit Carina Paju said that lobbying needs to be defined and regulated in Estonia because legislative drafting is not transparent enough today.

"The greater the measure of openness regarding legislative drafting – meaning the more we know about who is meeting who, who can affect legislation, to what extent and how – the more transparent our society. Lobbying as action to represent certain interests is part of any democratic country, but it cannot be done unethically," Paju said.

European Union member states regulate lobbying differently – through legislation, mandatory or voluntary lobbying registers. The European Parliament and European Commission also maintain lobby registers.

Former MEP, Reform Party chairman Kaja Kallas said that Estonia could also use clarity in terms of who is behind interest groups and where they get their funding.

"If an organization that looks like a nonprofit representing the community sits down with us but is actually funded by a company that has specific financial interests in mind, it is not fair," Kallas said.

The need to be candid about one's background also concerns experts politicians rely on to make decisions. Kallas said that the same goes for expert assessments provided via the press.

Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) also said that Estonia should agree on a set of rules for when top politicians or top state officials change jobs. "So it would not look like a case of preparing a soft landing for yourself while still in your old job," Aeg said.

PR firm Powerhouse is one example of an Estonian company offering lobbying services. The firm has been hired by Huawei and employs three former ministers.

Transparency International Estonia suggests that politicians could agree not to meet with lobbyists who are not registered.