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TIE study: hidden lobby reduces democracy

Transparency International Estonia (TIE) has in cooperation with Transparency International carried our the first study concerning lobbying activities in Estonia. 19 European states participated in the study and the comparative report will be published in the beginning of 2015. The results for Estonia were published today in Tallinn.

"Hidden lobbying reduces democracy because it lets certain interest dominate," said Jaanus Tehver, chair of TIE. "The risk is especially evident if there is no common understanding and rules for lobbying."

Lobbying is not regulated by law in Estonia. Therefore, TIE studied the risks resulting from this situation. Lobbying was analyzed according to three dimensions, where the maximum result of 100% could be achieved. The results were as follows: lobbying transparency (24%), integrity (27%) and equal access to the legislative process (35%).

The following systemic problems were stressed in the study: the opaque decision-making process in the parliament, confusion about what lobbying entails, the formality of inclusion, problems with the inner democracy of political parties, differing ethical standards among lobbyists and the complexities concerning monitoring the legislative process.

TIE suggests the legislators and lobbyists to tend to these risk areas in order to ensure a transparent legislative process.

Main recommendations from TIE:

Improve consultation practices: publish legislative drafts earlier and include information on the input provided by interest groups.

Introduce a legislative footprint in order to follow how drafts become laws.

Establish codes of conduct and selg-regulation mechanisms for lobbyists and public sector employees.

Provide equal, transparent and timely access to decision-making processes by interest groups as well as the media.

"The most important thing to keep in mind is to undestand what lobbying entails and what purpose does it serve. Furthermore, it is also important that lobbyists and the ruling bodies understand the need to regulate lobbying and would take the first steps in the form of self-regulation or any other meaningful regulation," said Jaanus Tehver, chair of TIE. "Lobbying and a transparency legislative process do not rule each other out. If there are clear rules which are practiced in reality, it is easier for both the lobbyists and the ruling bodies to conduct their day-to-day activities and the society as a whole will benefit."

TIE hopes that the many risk areas pointed out in the report will get sufficient attention from the legislators and that the relevant public bodies will take concrete steps towards creating more transparency.

The report can be found here: http://www.transparency.ee/cm/files/lisad/lobbying_in_estonia.pdf

Further information: info@transparency.ee