Bulgaria: Opaque relations among politics and business undermine trust in institutions and democracy
A new study shows that lobbying in Bulgaria remains largely unregulated and much of it happens behind closed doors and beyond public scrutiny
Issued by Transparency International Bulgaria
Lobbying in Bulgaria remains largely unregulated and much of it happens behind closed doors and beyond public scrutiny, shows a new study by Transparency International Bulgaria, a national chapter of Transparency International.
The report “Lobbying in Bulgaria: Interests, Influence, Politics” shows that there are significant deficits in the transparency, integrity and equality of access regarding influence over public decision-making in the country. Following a methodology elaborated by Transparency International and implemented in 19 EU countries under the framework of the “Lifting the Lid on Lobbying” project, Bulgaria receives a paltry overall score of only 25%. The performance of the country is alarmingly low on each of the study’s three indicators – transparency (13%), integrity (25%) and equality of access (38%).
The need to regulate lobbying has been present on the political agenda for the past 15 years, with 4 draft legislative proposals presented in Parliament, and yet no legislation on lobbying practices has passed.
While the public decision-making process in Bulgaria provides different channels for interest representation, the political and legal framework does not regulate lobbying to ensure that it is done in an open, ethical and transparent manner. Furthermore, considerable flaws exist in a number of laws and regulations which are related to lobbying practices. This includes access to information, political financing and conflicts of interest laws.
“The undue influence both on the political and the economic life in Bulgaria undermines public trust in the integrity of state institutions and leads to growing dissatisfaction with the democratic process,” says Kalin Slavov, Executive Director of Transparency International Bulgaria.
Alongside an assessment of existing lobbying regulations, policies and practices in the country, the study also compiles evidence about corruption risks related to a lack of lobbying control and provides recommendations and solutions for decision-makers and interest representatives in the public and private sector.
To ensure that lobbying practices in Bulgaria are safe-guarded from undue influence, Transparency International Bulgaria recommends that the National Assembly and the government implement the necessary legal and procedural instruments to support transparent and ethical lobbying. In particular, Transparency International Bulgaria calls for:
· A legislative footprint tool which provides detailed information on who sought to influence legislation, what piece of legislation was targeted and by which channels influence was sought.
· A Public Registry of all organisations that submit written opinions on draft bills to the parliamentary committees and the adoption.
· A parliamentary Code of Ethics to ensure integrity in the process of drafting laws and the inclusion of input from interest groups.
· Facilitation of open and accessible public consultations through publishing of an annual legislative programme of the National Assembly, publishing of preliminary concepts on the need for and expected effect of the legislative act, and publishing of transcripts of the public consultations along with each draft legislative act.
“Legal and procedural guarantees for integrity and transparency of lobbying are urgently necessary” adds Kalin Slavov, “If public policies are to be balanced, effective and rational, and if they are to reflect the broad democratic interests, the decision-making process should be open, fair and transparent”.
The executive summary and recommendations of the report is available here.
The full text of the report in English will be available in January 2015.
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Linka Toneva-Metodieva, PhD