As the world governments are speeding up their efforts to regulate the pace of the Coronavirus pandemic and stabilize the teetering economy, lobbyists divided in two: some lobbyists say that much of their attention has been focused on responding to the crisis’s immediacy, while others say they focused on giving officials the breathing space they need.
The crisis is basically forcing the lobbying industry to reflect on what really works when it comes doing business in the long term.
How are different lobbying industries around the globe cope with the lockdown situation?
Coronavirus forces Brussels lobbying to go digital
As we already talked about it in a previous post, the lobbying activity in Brussels, at the heart of the European Union, is a very dynamic one, recognized by the European Union officials as a necessity for the democratic process.
The long-term effect of the pandemic on the EU lobbying industry will largely depend on how much Brussels can legislate and regulate during a period of Europe-wide lockdowns and economic recession — and how eager and able policy-makers can continue to communicate with outside stakeholders throughout that time. For now, with formal and informal meetings on hold, influencers are practising tele-lobbying — trying to keep in touch with contacts, developing strategies and advance agendas through phone calls, video calls, webinars, emails and instant messages.
UK business lobby wants easier terms for government-backed loans
British banks have so far lent 2.8 billion pounds ($3.5 billion) to small and medium-sized businesses with a turnover of up to 45 million pounds under the government scheme, approving 16,624 loans since the scheme opened on March 23. There is a backlog of around 20,000 loan applications. The CBI said that loan procedures under 25,000 pounds should be streamlined and that loans up to 500,000 pounds would benefit from a 100 per cent guarantee as well as a 10-year repayment option.
American construction companies lobby to keep working as coronavirus spreads
The construction industry in the USA is pressing to keep up and running projects, even as some start shutting down around the world to stop the spread of Coronavirus. Industry organizations are lobbying in Washington, D.C., and state capitals to classify construction employees as vital personnel exempted from stay-at-home orders.
Oil Canadian lobby group asks for environmental laws to be suspended because of Coronavirus pandemic
A leaked letter from Canada’s largest oil and gas lobby to the country’s government has revealed more than 30 requests to suspend environmental regulations, laws and policies because of the Coronavirus pandemic. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) made the requests over 13 pages to members of prime minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, in a letter reported by Global News. The Coronavirus pandemic has shaken the Canadian and worldwide oil and gas industries as prices declined dramatically due to lower demand. A price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia has contributed to the woes of the industry and has put thousands of jobs at risk.
As countries across the world go into lockdown in response to Covid-19, economies are in free fall. Almost every sector is taking a hit. And almost every sector will be shaped, for years to come, by the speed, amount, and nature of public assistance it receives. To bring economies back on track, there is a limited amount of time and money, therefore not every sector will get what it wants or needs.
Lobbying is a mode of action, often unobtrusive, as opposed to mass demonstrations that mobilize large number of people. Lobbying refers to exercising of legal pressure on politicians, public authorities and, more broadly, decision-makers. The lobbying activity involves patience, hard work and expertise, especially during these challenging times.
Therefore, the decisions legislators and lobbyists will have an enormous influence on what kind of economies emerge on the other side. The lobbying activity helps to maintain and improve the public trust, trust in the democratic institution and the representation process of public politics.
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Lobby is a direct or indirect influence on the formulation and implementation of the legislation, regardless of the model used for communication; if there is outsourcing or if there are media sources involved, it’s all about the network of a member, how information is communicated and the promotional materials. In order to promote good practices in lobbying and advocacy activities and to help maintain and increase public confidence, confidence in democratic institutions and the process of public policy implementation, practitioners in lobbying and advocacy have taken important steps in self-regulation.
The self-regulation system initiated consists of:
- Code of Ethics of Lobby and Advocacy Practitioners;
- The Transparency Register of Lobby and Advocacy Activities;
- Commission for the Supervision of the Transparency Register;
The lobbying activity in Romania is difficult to analyze considering the permissive legislation, which allows lobbying companies not to disclose any piece of information about the clients or the money involved in the lobbying campaigns.
Therefore, we can draw some interesting conclusions regarding Romanian lobby:
– the lobbying activity in Romania is still in an early stage
– regarding the situation of the lobbyists in Romania, they will have to find a fair and pragmatic level of transparency in the practices of lobbying, defining the typology of information that is required to be disclosed
– the inclusion of the lobby in a coherent way of recognition in order to gain a well-deserved place in the political system should be one of the priorities of the Romanian government
We have to say it straightforward: public information about lobbying in Romania is inadequate, inaccurate and often unverifiable. The lobbying activities that reached the public agenda in Romania were often linked to the interests of powerful American corporations. It should be noted that the public agenda is usually different from the lobby agenda, as the priorities of the public are not the same as the priorities of the lobbyists.
The lobbying activity in the current Romanian political context
When talking about political context, we are not discussing the political views of a certain party or another, but about the general political context.
Romania, as a semi-parliamentary or a semi-presidential republic, has a relatively constant number of parliamentary parties. The longevity of political structures is usually followed by the development of a lobby industry, which in Romania was not possible until recently.
Under these conditions, the inclusion of the lobby in a coherent way of recognition in order to gain a well-deserved place in the political system should be one of the priorities of the future Romanian governments, following the European tendencies.
Yes, at the moment there is a Romanian lobbying law, but that is only a draft and the politicians offer no signs of a future legiferation.
As we already talked about it, the lobbying activity in Brussels, at the heart of the European Union, is a very dynamic one, recognized by the European Union officials as a necessity for the democratic process.
There is no doubt that the Romanian society needs more transparency from all the actors participating at the process of influencing and decision making that affects the society. The lobbying activity in Romania should be clearly defined, with the difference between the conduct of this professional activity and the activities of the civil society organizations. It clearly distinguishes between a legitimate action and an act of corruption: the lobby is a central and legitimate part of the democratic process within the framework of the liberal democratic systems.
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Lobby transparency in Romania
Transparency in the lobbying activity is a problem of the industry on a global level, not only in Romania, being one of the topics that has direct effects on the natural development of this activity, along with other issues such as ethical standards and anti-corruption rules, the formation of lobbyists and, perhaps the most serious of the difficulties, the image of lobbying activity.
A bad image of the lobbying in a particular country affects the image of all the lobbyists and the trust of the citizens. Transparency means trust from the people that the lobbyist abide by the law – this clearly add up a good image to the whole industry.
Regarding the situation of the lobbyists in Romania, they will have to find a fair and pragmatic level of transparency in the practices of lobbying, defining the typology of information that is required to be disclosed, given the rigor imposed by the listed investors. scholarships and codes of ethics of lobbyists that oblige the confidentiality of certain business information obtained from clients.
Under these conditions, the inclusion of the lobby in a coherent way of recognition in order to gain a well-deserved place in the political system should be one of the priorities of the government, following the European tendencies. As we already talked about it in a previous post, the lobbying activity in Brussels, at the heart of the European Union, is a very dynamic one, recognized by the European Union officials as a necessity for the democratic process.
The impact of the evolution of technology on the lobbying activity
The technological process in the sphere of the Internet has radically contributed to the accessibility of politicians to the general public. The debate in our country around lobbying activities also suggests an insufficient maturity of the political class. The lobby will be professionalized only to the extent that those who practice it will understand that it is a more complex activity that involves a strategic analysis of the political system and the entire decision-making process. To be successful, lobbyists need to understand and adapt to the political system within which they perform. Basically, we are witnessing the passage from the lobby in the halls and rooms to a lobby activity in a virtual space. Influencing factors of lobby in Romania Another important factor that influences the quality of the lobby and also the quality of the lobbyists in Romania is represented by the public life and the politicians. Voters are extremely important to politicians as well as lobbyists. Lobbyists’ argumentation is often focused on the benefits of lobbying on voters, the general public. Successful lobbyists are first and foremost very good communicators, able to use their communication and analytical skills to produce credible arguments. Lobbyists need to return to the emotional billing arguments, which concern the human sensitive side. In addition to the ethical principles of the lobbyist profession that should be promoted through their own codes of ethics, corporations have their share of responsibility in creating a fair space of action for lobbyists in relation to decedents. In other words, large corporations in Romania should assume their own codes of conduct that have principles regarding relations with lobbyists or principles that relate to donations to politicians, parties, or other political organizations.
The lobbying activity helps to maintain and improve public trust, but also the trust in the democratic institutions and in the representation process of public politics. The lobbying activity in Romania should be clearly defined, with the difference between the conduct of this professional activity and the activities of the civil society organizations. It clearly distinguishes between a legitimate action and an act of corruption: the lobby is a central and legitimate part of the democratic process within the framework of the liberal democratic systems.
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Romania, as a semi-parliamentary or a semi-presidential republic, has a relatively constant number of parliamentary parties. The longevity of political structures is usually followed by the development of a lobby industry, which in Romania was not possible. The political stability of a state is directly based on the stability of the public policy makers and the interactions between them and the interest groups.
Lobbying in Romania
In countries like America, public policies change over time, but the changes tend to be radical. In relatively new democracies, such as in Romania, public policy changes are much easier and more frequent, with the focus being on non-essential issues, which are particularly restricted by interest groups. The incidence and typology of public policy changes in Romania can be explained by the instability and fragility of the system and the political status quo.
The professional lobbying is at the beginning in Romania, but, like everywhere else, the biggest volume of influencing activity is made by professional organizations, business associations, NGO’s, by the civil society, syndicates, employer unions, corporations, think tanks, lawyers, and others. In Romania, the law regulating lobbying in Romania was drafted. According to the legislative initiative, the lobby activity will be defined as „any contact person organized and structured with public representatives to exert influence in the interest of a client”. Still, the regulation of the lobbying activity is a visible part of Romania’s democratic process and it is a right granted by the Constitution.
Influencing factors of lobby in Romania
Another important factor that influences the quality of the lobby and also the quality of the lobbyists in Romania is the quality of the public life and the politicians. Communism, which has marked the history of the country for several decades, has left its mark on the structure of contemporary politicians and decision-making mechanisms. The lobby, which depends on the administrative-political structures and on the politicians, knows a deficit of public perception with a double causality: the lack of confidence in politicians and communist nostalgia. The transparency of the decision-making process and public debates that occur in regulatory projects in Romania aren’t always at the level wanted by the interest groups; Romania has a long way to go in the direction of opening and professionalizing the dialogue between authorities and interest groups.
Lobbying activity in Romania: What’s next?
Under these conditions, the inclusion of the lobby in a coherent way of recognition in order to gain a well-deserved place in the political system should be one of the priorities of the future Romanian governments, following the European tendencies. As we already talked about it, the lobbying activity in Brussels, at the heart of the European Union, is a very dynamic one, recognized by the European Union officials as a necessity for the democratic process.
The lobbying activity helps to maintain and improve public trust, but also the trust in the democratic institution and in the representation process of public politics. The lobbying activity should be clearly defined, with the difference between the conduct of this professional activity and the activities of the civil society organizations. It clearly distinguishes between a legitimate action and an act of corruption: the lobby is a central and legitimate part of the democratic process within the framework of the liberal democratic systems.
A modern state cannot ignore the contribution of lobbying practices in the democratic exercise of decision making, nor can it minimize the importance of lobbying in the development and promotion of the business sector. Therefore, it is desirable that, in the short and medium-term, the lobby will receive official attention and recognition from the governors, with the support of civil society, as a democratic way to influence legislative action that affects all citizens.
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Lobbying is the attempt to influence legislators in setting a certain policy by taking a more active and wide-ranging approach than simply submitting a proposal or a set of proposals. It generally requires the involvement of the media, politicians and key people from your organization in an integrated strategy designed to ensure a positive response to your proposal and increase the chances of achieving your objectives.
Examples of lobbying activities: studying the decision-making process, informing decision-makers, establishing high-level relationships, setting up networks, providing expertise, participating in study groups, organizing conferences, visits, drafting amendments to a draft law, etc.
Lobbying is more effective when it…
- is based on facts, draws on practical experience;
- is carefully and strategically planned;
- involves and represents the group on whose behalf it is undertaken.
In most campaigns, you ask for more than you expect to receive in the hope of receiving, at least, the minimum acceptable outcome. You should also decide on your definition of success and failure in relation to the objectives. Success may not be entirely linked to achieving the minimum acceptable result. Bear in mind that, sometimes, even in failing to achieve the minimum acceptable result, raising the profile of your organization increases your ability to lobby successfully.
How to collect information for your lobbying campaign
- Office research, where the internet is the basic tool. This monitoring method uses public information sources or, better known, open sources. Although it seems within anyone’s reach, the careful monitoring of the websites of the ministries, government agencies or the two chambers of the Parliament turns into a laborious step in the absence of a rigorous method.
- Interactions and discussions with stakeholders in institutions, commissions, agencies, working groups, consulting firms, corporations, etc.
- Informal research is usually the way to obtain the most valuable information from the so-called primary sources: politicians, officials, advisers, experts, etc. The information collected from the halls of the Parliament is often more useful than the information obtained from the websites of the two chambers.
Determine what is possible and achievable
When beginning a lobbying campaign on any issue, one must look at what is possible and achievable. Any organization starting on a lobbying campaign must be aware of its own political strength, infrastructure, priorities, and key health issues. You should also look at the current changes in different systems, such as the healthcare or the transport one, changes which you can use to support your case. The conventional monitoring modalities can be supplemented by the following techniques that are used in certain well-defined contexts or situations that do not allow information to be obtained from the classical sources:
- comparative study – analysis of a similar lobbying campaign;
- experience from previous campaigns;
- organizing structured meetings with experts (round tables, seminars);
- spreading rumors in order to find out the opinions of specialists who, in a normal communication situation, would not express their real opinion;
open relationship – the permanent chase of any information, in relation to third parties or in connection with a given topic, which will be used if a related topic will appear on the lobbyist’s agenda.
Lobbying to achieve the major objectives of your organization is a difficult, complex, and multifaceted set of tasks. If carried out with skill, perseverance and knowledge of the political and media systems, lobbying can help the organization to achieve their objectives and raise their profile to the extent that future lobbying efforts are even more likely to be successful.
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Lobbying and diplomacy are both activities aimed at representing certain interests in front of the decision-makers and the public by informing both policy-makers and the public about certain policies, specific viewpoints, advantages or disadvantages in adopting a certain measure.
The lobbying activity requires a lot of work and professional integrity. It requires legal, political, sociological and communication knowledge. In supporting a public cause, a good lobbyist must be rigorous and creative at the same time. In the EU, the high-level diplomatic lobby functioned mainly until the 1970s, when the precursor lobby of contemporary practices took over. At that time, there were few lobbyists in Europe, and law firms were not involved in lobbying at that time. The explosion of the modern lobby occurred after 1979 when the first elections for the European Parliament were organized.
What makes the practice of lobbying different from the practice of diplomacy?
Diplomacy has long been portrayed as the prerogative of states (and its representatives), engaged in the management of international relations by negotiations done in a peaceful way. In recent years, however, diplomacy as an exclusive state domain has been challenged on several fronts. The range of issues has expanded significantly to a variety of areas that go beyond the immediate military and political dimensions of traditional diplomacy (e.g. environmental diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, etc.).
Unlike diplomacy, lobbying is normally associated with the actions of interest groups. Defined as those activities that target policy-makers with a view to influencing policy outcomes and bringing them close to the interests and goals of the lobbyists, the role of lobbying and how different interest groups manage to shape public policies is a crucial issue for scholars. Given its importance in terms of who wins/loses in politics and who influences whom, lobbying has thus generated a large amount of studies that have tried to assess the influence of interest groups, to gauge the evolution of the lobbying population and to evaluate their role in terms of democratic accountability and/or biases that the system might have towards certain actors. Interestingly, lobbying does not only occur on issues of domestic policy, but foreign policy is an important aspect as well.
Nowadays, lobbying it is an increasingly common practice. Governments use lobbyists as an alternative to traditional diplomacy. Being able to develop and apply negotiation and a lobbying strategy has become a necessity for professionals aspiring to develop their influence and their business relations. Acting effectively with the various international decision-makers and international actors require:
- A knowledge-based approach mastering and taking into account specific political, legal and regulatory constraints;
- A know-how putting into practice the most effective methods of action and communication instantly when the decision-making process is implemented;
- A high-level of comfort in adapting to the various target cultures and regions and to the current world.
The differences between lobbying and diplomacy
Lobbying and diplomacy are activities aimed at representing certain interests in front of the decision-makers and the public of a political system; at informing policy-makers and the public about certain policies, specific viewpoints, etc.; at communicating these issues via formal and informal channels; at influencing the formulation and implementation of policies and at building relationships.
Besides the similarity in the goals of lobbying and diplomacy, both rest on persuasion as diplomats and lobbyists have to convince their counterparts of the importance of their perspective, information, and interests.
The diplomatic relations exercised through the embassies are a fruitful area from which some successful lobbyists of today come from, despite professional deontology, which, in principle, forbids the employment of former graduates in private lobbying firms at the end of the term. The rules regarding the hiring of the diplomatic personnel in the sphere of private lobbying consultancy need more clarity and transparency from the European Commission.
The impact of lobbyists on the foreign policy of the states is not, however, as clear as that on the internal policy. The results of the lobbying campaigns, in general, show that lobbyists produce more visible changes, thus exerting greater influence in internal politics as compared to the external relations.
Influence & Lobbying
The structure of interests in any given nation will depend upon the structure of the economy, the role of the government, political and business culture. If there’s a tendency for less governmental control, there’s a higher possibility that interest groups will act more or less independently using the government as an instrument of influence. If, on the contrary, the government tends to subordinate business and industry in a power vertical, their interests will more likely become an instrument of achieving political goals.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that international lobbying is made only from business interests, it includes other groups as stated above. Moreover, there are often purely political goals that may not include private interests. For example security issues, whether it is about implementing a new arms control agreement, fighting terrorism or extradition of criminals, these issues are usually dealt through official channels and embassies. But even here, lobbying can become a part of the policymaking, if a government decides to hire lobbyists or consultants that are ready to accompany policies, influencing decision-makers, experts or public opinion.
The lobbying activity helps to maintain and improve the public trust, trust in the democratic institution and the representation process of public politics. In the end, international lobbying never excludes diplomacy and vice versa, these are complementary layers that become intertwined, as the decision-making process becomes more complicated.
The lobbying activity, if done properly and within the law limits, helps maintaining and improving the public trust, the trust in democratic institutions and in the process of the politics done for the citizens.
More than that, the professional lobby and interest groups have the obligation to always act ethically and morally in their relationship with all parties involved.
‘Lobbying’ and ‘lobbyist’ are controversial terms. Quite often their negative or pejorative connotations and poor reputation are underlined, especially when the terms are associated with allegations of corruption and influence trafficking. Not surprisingly, many lobbyists prefer to use other terms to describe their work, like: ‘parliamentary relations’, ‘government relations’ or, more often, ‘public affairs’.
What determines the success of lobbying efforts?
Recent research indicates that an interest group’s influence is determined by the group’s managerial skill, the depth of its political connections and the size and cohesiveness of its membership.
Here are a number of key functions lobbyists need in order to be successful:
- they have to establish a network of contacts around a given policy issue;
- they have to maintain relations with the civil service, parliament, ministers, media, regulators;
- they need to build coalitions with allied interest groups to increase pressure;
- they need to have access to a regular source of (insider) policy information.
The different ways to lobby for influencing the policymaking process
The actual ways businesses use these direct and indirect forms of lobbying can differ depending on the things they are looking to change, as well as the kind of business they are. There are essentially three different ways or routes to lobby for influencing policy-making decisions: controlling the public discourse, spending money on the message, and using organizations for political gains.
1.Controlling the public discourse
One of the most popular methods of gaining political influence is through control of the public discourse. If a business can get the public to back its claims and goals, the politicians are sure to follow. After all, the public helps to elect these people and once you have the public on your side, you can have more leverage.
You can also control the discourse by spinning the media. This is all about ensuring the discussion is positive for your cause. Moreover, you would ensure to media focuses on the positive benefits of what you are trying to achieve – especially if there are also negatives that people might point out.
Spending money on the message
Money is often the cause of controversy in terms of the lobby for political influence. It’s also the area of lobbying that can seem the most negative because one can`t be quite sure if the intentions and outcomes are as good as they could be.
How does money influence lobbying? First off, businesses could spend money on supporting organizations and lobby groups that work for a specific cause.
A business can also directly fund a party or individual politician hoping that they will help pushing forward policies that also benefit the business. There are generally a lot of rules and regulations influencing the ability to donate to political parties and in most countries, directly paying for a specific regulation is strictly forbidden. This isn’t to say lobbying of the kind doesn’t exist.
Using organizations for political gains
A business can opt for using professional lobby groups and individuals. This was already touched on a bit above – it’s all about getting professional lobbying groups further causes that you believe in. For larger organizations, it might also mean hiring professional lobbyist to push through your business’ specific causes. Using organizations provides businesses a direct access to the decision-making process – an ability to influence the processes head on and be part of the decision-making.
But as mentioned above, the impact of this can depend on the country in which the business operates. In certain countries, like the US, these organizations can be widespread and highly sophisticated, while in others less organized and lack in actual ability to drive change.
Political influence or, better said, policy-making process influencing, is essentially about, well, influencing. It’s about persuading the lawmakers to your cause – lobbying for your specific interests. Businesses, just as individuals, want to persuade the decision-makers that their ideas, needs, and desires deserve a fair hearing. Lobbying can happen indirectly or directly in many ways. You can simply use the information and public pressure to ensure politicians to focus on issues your business cares about.
Lobbying is a mode of action, often unobtrusive, as opposed to mass demonstrations that mobilize a large number of people. Lobbying refers to exercising legal pressure on politicians, public authorities and, more broadly, decision-makers. The lobbying activity involves patience, hard work, and even more expertise.
The lobbying activity requires a lot of work and professional integrity. It requires legal, political, sociological and communication knowledge. In supporting a public cause, a good lobbyist must be rigorous and creative at the same time. The Romanian Lobby Registry Association has adopted the following Code of Ethics for Lobbyists and Advocacy Practitioners to ensure basic guidelines and standards for their professional conduct.
The values that constitute this Code are integrity, transparency, accuracy, confidentiality, and professionalism. Romania is now in the category of responsible European countries, which have self-regulated their market in order to carry out fair and transparent activities in the interaction with decision-makers. Countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Estonia, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden have no legislation, no code of conduct and no transparency records of interests.
What does lobbying have to do with ethics?
Since the ethical foundation of lobbying is the vigorous public debate necessary for informed decision making, ethical dilemmas related to lobbying tend to arise when various behaviors by lobbyists and lawmakers undermine the fairness and transparency of that process and do not contribute to the common good.
So what should lawmakers expect from ethical lobbyists?
Without exception, they should:
- Treat fellow lobbyists with courtesy: Lobbyists know they may be on opposite sides on one issue but allies on others.
- Respect the law: It is not enough to just act within the law. Ethical lobbyists embrace the rule of law and its underlying principles.
- Avoid conflicts of interest: If a potential conflict arises, ethical lobbyists disclose it immediately to both parties and recuse themselves until the matter is resolved.
- Strive for transparency: Good lobbyists don’t hide information—they share it.
- Maintain trust: Lobbyists build strong relationships, show mutual respect and honor commitments with legislators, staff and fellow lobbyists.
- Conduct business with integrity: Good lobbyists are proud of their profession and see themselves as problem solvers.
Code of Ethics of Lobby and Advocacy Practitioners
Those who practice lobby and advocacy must act ethically and morally in their relations with all parties involved and have a duty to contribute to the public understanding of this type of activity. The Code of Ethics of Lobby and Advocacy Practitioners provides basic guidelines and standards for the conduct of stakeholder representatives. They are strongly encouraged to respect the code and to always practice high ethical conduct in their efforts to influence public decisions.
The lobbying activity helps to maintain and improve the public trust, trust in the democratic institution and the representation process of public politics.
Lobbying and advocacy is an integral part of Romania’s democratic process and is a right guaranteed by the constitution.
In order to promote good practices in lobbying and advocacy activities and to help maintain and increase public confidence, confidence in democratic institutions and the process of public policy implementation, practitioners in lobbying and advocacy have taken important steps in self-regulation.
In Romania, there are still many who appreciate the quality of a lobbying agency regarding the access it has to the deciders or the rule makers of the moment. However, the lobbying activity requires a lot of work and professional integrity. It requires legal, political, sociological and communication knowledge. In supporting a public cause, a good lobbyist must be rigorous and creative at the same time.
1. Myth 1 about lobby: lobby is made only by lobbyists
There are many theorists who distinguish between lobby and advocacy, considering lobbying pursues a private interest, while advocacy pursues a public interest. Starting from this distinction, it is considered that only large companies lobby, and everyone else advocates. If the lobbyist is a lawyer, he will be expected to provide legal services, representing the clients’ interests. But the European Commission does not make this distinction, and considers that any activity of influence of decisions is confined to „representing interests”, and those who practice it are „representatives of interest groups”.
The lobbying activity in Romania is still at the beginning but, as everywhere in the world, most of the influencing activity is carried out by professional organizations, business associations, civil society, unions, employers, corporations, lawyers and others. Of this amount, only a part (probably less than 50%) came from lobbying activities, although the professional lobbying done by specialized agencies is much more efficient than the one made by own efforts by the organizations, as it provides legal, sociological, political expertise, economic and necessary communication. To make a parallel, it is similar to court representation, where a lawyer will always represent your interests more effectively than you could yourself, as a non-professional.
2. Myth 2 about lobby: lobby is illegal
The law governing the lobbying activity in Romania is still in the parliamentary process; it has already passed by the Senate, through tacit adoption, and now it goes to the Deputy Chamber, as a decider. According to the draft of the Romanian lobby law, the lobbying activity will be defined as „any contact person organized and structured with public representatives to exert influence in the interest of a client„.
The frequent connection between lobby and influence peddling is not likely to help sort things out. There is a clear delimitation between the two activities, one legal and the other criminal. Lobby, as an evolved form of influencing decisions, represents the set of legal and legitimate actions carried out in order to influence public policies. Thus, while the lobbyist promises diligence to achieve the result, the one who deals with the influence peddling directly promises the result. In Romania, the contribution of Romanian lobbyists to the creation of public policies is hard to detect today, but the situation will change as public policies will be proposed by a plurality of voices such as NGOs, think tanks, groups and professional organizations. In Romania, the greatest amount of influence is made by non-governmental organizations, lawyers, civil society, corporations, trade unions and others.
3. Myth 3 about lobby: lobby is undemocratic or anti-democratic
There are certain rumors about the anti-democratic character of the lobby activities, with the explanation that it is acting against the will of the people, who elected their representatives. Things are exactly the opposite, as lobby is one expression of democracy.
In other countries, lobby is an important part of the decision of public authorities. In Brussels, the capital of EU, the process of consulting with economic operators and civil society is serious and goes beyond the stage of formalism that still persists with us.
The European Commission considers that: „the representation of interest groups is a legitimate part of a democratic system„. The decision-making transparency and the public debates that take place on the draft normative acts in Romania are made by the eyes of the world in most cases, organized by officials without deciding power.
There is no doubt that the Romanian society needs more transparency from all the actors who participate in the process of influencing and making the decisions that affect it.
4. Myth 4 about lobby: lobby means dinners and meetings with politicians
Until you get to meet the politicians, a lot of other essential activities take place: monitoring of draft normative acts, comparative law analysis, sociological and economic impact research, political analysis, public study, and analysis, finding allies and identifying opponents, elaboration of arguments and communication strategy. Meetings and supporting arguments are not only held in front of politicians. Experts, officials, and advisors play an extremely important role in decision making. And these meetings are only part of the communication because other channels can be identified and used (mass-media, public conferences, press releases).
Probably the biggest challenge is educating politicians, clients and public opinion in this area. We are making efforts to correct the wrong public perception of the lobby, which is seen as a PR activity by some and as a influence peddling activity by others.
5. Myth 5 about lobby: lobby cannot change much of the political decisions
This is perhaps the most common cliché: „Why bother? Don’t you see that nothing is happening anyway? And why do we do the politicians’ work?”
There are some common mistakes that non-professionals make:
- lack of monitoring: „the law was published in the Official Gazette. What can we do?” Indeed, the monitoring of draft normative acts is essential for all those who are interested in public policies;
- lack of goals: it sets out general problems and calls for their resolution by the Romanian state or the Government. For example: „We need clearer legislation„;
- lack of communication strategy: it has to communicate consistently with the people who decide or can influence the decision.
„Let’s send a press release!” – not always the use of the press is a good idea, because it puts the parties in belligerent positions from the beginning. It is preferable to build a relationship based on trust between interest groups and authorities, until they are considered partners and not opponents.
Lobbying is a mode of action, often unobtrusive, as opposed to mass demonstrations that mobilize a large number of people. Lobbying refers to exercising of legal pressure on politicians, public authorities and, more broadly, decision-makers. The lobbying activity involves patience, hard work and even more expertise.
The lobbying activity helps to maintain and improving the public trust, trust in the democratic institution and the representation process of public politics.
More than that, the professional lobby and interest groups have the obligation to always act with ethics and morals in their relations with all parties involved.
What is lobby?
The lobby is „the action of individuals and private groups, each with varying specific interests, trying to influence decisions at the political level.” By this deﬁnition, the Commission emphasizes that the attempt to influence can be made by various means, from discussions and presentations of reports to telephone calls.
The lobbying activity should be clearly defined, with the difference between the conduct of this professional activity and the activities of the civil society organizations. It clearly distinguishes between a legitimate action and an act of corruption: the lobby is a central and legitimate part of the democratic process within the framework of the liberal democratic systems. The term lobby should not be confused with the term corruption. In support of this statement is quoted a report of Transparency International which states: „corruption is operationally defined as the abuse of power for private gain”
How many lobbyists are in Brussels?
Brussels is not only the capital of Belgium, but also the capital of Europe. In fact, in an area of a few square kilometers, the Belgian city gathers the headquarters of the main European institutions and dozens of other EU entities. There are almost 25,000 lobbyists, who are working in Brussels; most of whom are representing the interests of corporations and their lobby groups.
How does lobbying work in practice?
Lobbyists are the indispensable bridge linking a sector of the society (industry, trade and many others) with the policy makers. The lobbyist provides technical expertise to the EU regulators in particular domains in which they may not be experts. One of the most common ways of providing such input is by drafting position and priority papers on the relevant dossiers for the represented sector.
Lobby and the European Commission
The European Commission is the main target of European lobbyists in Brussels. This is easy to understand, given the skills of the Commission to initiate and formulate proposals for amending the legislation (articles 250-252 EC), so that the lobby activities found the epicenter where the Community legislation takes the first form. However, so far, the Commission has preferred to address the issue of regulating lobbying through non-binding instruments, such as communications, white books, green books, various other information, or to include certain standards conduct in its internal regulations regarding the status of EU officials, the code of good administrative conduct or the code of conduct of the commissioners. The Commission seemed to have a justification for this. The Commission’s initiative came to fruition on June 23, 2008, when it was inaugurated the first European register of lobbyists exercising influence on the Commission. By launching this voluntary register, the Commission wanted to inform citizens about general interests or specific factors that influence the decision-making process at the level the European public institutions and about the resources mobilized for this purpose.
How does lobbying work in practice?
Lobbyists are the indispensable bridge linking a sector of the society (industry, trade and many others) with the policy makers. The lobbyist provides technical expertise to the EU regulators in particular domains in which they may not be experts. One of the most common ways of providing such input is by drafting position and priority papers on the relevant dossiers for the represented sector. The lobbying activity should be clearly defined, with the difference between the conduct of this professional activity and the activities of the civil society organizations.
Lobbying in Brussels – An overview
We have to make a distinction between lobbying by paid professionals and political activism of engaged citizens. Simply put, money matters. It offers the ability to lobby steadily over time, at all stages of the decision making process. Employing lobbyists that can follow a dossier throughout the legislative process – which can take up to five or even ten years – can be a pricey affair. The most senior ‘barons of the bubble’ have salaries even bigger than those of the European Commissioners.
Public scrutiny of lobbying
There has been some progress towards greater public scrutiny and official oversight of EU lobbying activities since a voluntary lobby register was introduced: the EU Transparency Register. Many lobbyists have signed up, providing information on how much they spend on lobbying activities, how many staff they employ, and on which policy areas they work. At the same time, genuine transparency remains a distant dream. As a voluntary tool that is not subject to thorough, systematic data checks, the register contains many incomplete and unreliable entries, reflecting how little a priority lobby transparency still is in the EU institutions. The EU institutions are due to start negotiating the creation of a new lobby register, but the prospect of a truly mandatory, legally-binding tool remains a long way off. Despite much pressure from civil society, the Commission seems content with tweaks rather than advancing the fundamental reforms needed for real transparency.
In conclusion, there is nothing illegal and it is not a privilege to know the decision-making process and to influence it, including by sustaining a self-interest. The current legislative framework establishes rights in this regard and establishes procedural mechanisms by which these rights are guaranteed. The major problem that society has is related to the fact that these rights are not sufficiently disseminated to the general public, not that everyone, including sometimes at the level of public authorities, be they central or local, knows them and especially respects them.