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Lobbying in Italy: Opaque and inaccessible

Rules on transparency, codes of conduct and greater access to information is needed to reform the sector

Lobbying in Italy is omnipresent and yet it remains unregulated and opaque, making it difficult to know who is influencing public decision-making processes, to what extent and through which means, said Transparency International Italy in the first comprehensive report on lobbying in the country.

The report “Lobbying and democracy: Representing interests in Italy”, which was launched at the House of Representatives, finds that the extent of risky lobbying and undue influence on public decision-making in Italy is alarming. Following a methodology developed by Transparency International, which is being implemented in 19 countries within the EU under the framework of the “Lifting the Lid on Lobbying” project, Italy scores low overall in terms of lobbying transparency (11%), integrity (27%) and equality of access (22%).

Although nearly 50 bills on lobbying have been drafted in Italy since 1948, no law regulating lobbying has been passed. In the absence of regulation, codes of conduct for lobbyists and decision-makers, or even a register of lobbyists, the phenomenon takes place informally and behind closed doors – undermining democratic decision-making in the country as well as public trust.

The lack of transparency around how decisions are made and who influences the decision-making process has led to a large share of the public equating “lobbying” with “corruption”, and the profession of lobbying tends to be negatively associated with powerful and wealthy actors, such as from the pharmaceutical, banking or financial sectors, attempting to secure political power.

The report does not only evaluate the state of lobbying practices in the country, but also puts forward a set of recommendations to make the lobbying profession transparent and accountable as it should be: "The starting point is the establishment of a register of lobbyists" said Virginio Carnevali, Chair of Transparency International Italy. "This is a very simple tool, already implemented in several European countries and in EU institutions. Greater control over who can and does access Parliament buildings, the disclosure of information about the meetings between politicians and lobbyists, and complete publicity and transparency of the legislative process are other key steps that can allow for citizens and civil society to have a greater monitoring role over national institutions and democratic processes.”

Transparency of public information and access to this information is also essential to ensure ethical and fair lobbying − that is the reason why Transparency International Italy, alongside many other civil society organizations, launched the campaign Foia4Italy, the first case in our country of collective drafting of a law proposal, which calls on the Italian government to adopt a Freedom of Information Act. “We must not forget that the information collected or held by public institutions belongs to the people,” said Virginio Carnevali, “and we are fighting for full access to all Public Administration documents to be granted, including those relating to lobbying. Our hope is that this government will take concrete and strong actions towards ensuring a fully transparent lobbying system.”

The full study (in English) is available here: www.transparency.it/lobbying-and-democracy


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