Non-transparent and unethical lobbying has a negative impact on decision-making
Transparency International Slovenia’s new report Lobbying in Slovenia – Call for Transparent and Ethical Lobbying highlights clear weaknesses in Slovenian lobbying regulation and the discrepancy between legislation and practice. These deficiencies and the poor implementation of existing rules open the door for the abuse of power and increase the possibility of state capture by informal interest groups.
The report provides the first comprehensive insight into lobbying in Slovenia. Together with experts (from academia, private and public sector, media and professional lobbyists), Transparency International Slovenia (TI Slovenia) evaluated the national lobbying regulation and related activities in Slovenia, with a particular focus on transparency, integrity measures and equality of access to decision-makers, and put forward key recommendations for change.
The research results show that lobbying in Slovenia is indeed regulated. However, serious failings in the regulation mean that Slovenia scores only 55 points out of 100. The regulation is based on solid foundations, but this low score indicates that it will be necessary to build on them in order to thoroughly protect the country and the citizens from the influence of illegal lobbying and its negative consequences.
One of the main findings of the report reveals that most lobbying in Slovenia takes place outside of the recorded and reported lobbying contacts – in the shadows, behind closed doors. These opaque lobbying practices attest to legal deficiencies and a poor practical implementation of Slovenian legislation.
In order for the activities of all types of lobbyists to become fully transparent and ethical, additional mechanisms must be established. One of the most important steps is to ensure that a ‘legislative footprint’ is added to each piece of legislation that is passed, since it is currently unclear who is exerting influence on the preparation and adoption of legislation. It is also crucial that the use of information technologies be introduced to ensure a full legislative footprint and transparency of lobbying contacts.
The unbalanced composition of advisory and working groups in Slovenia also needs to be addressed, as the report shows this to be the weakest area within the system. It is often impossible to ensure a wide participation of shareholders in adopting public decisions because of a wide use or abuse of extraordinary legislative procedures. This is clearly illustrated by one of the three case studies contained in the report.
The report also identifies significant shortcomings in the area of self-regulation, which could serve to close the gap in inadequate regulation by encouraging responsible lobbying among lobbyists and interest groups. Despite the potential, this is an area that is currently underdeveloped in Slovenia.
Secretary General of TI Slovenia Vid Doria emphasises: “Although lobbying is an integral part of democracy and plays an important role in allowing shareholders and the public to participate in decision-making processes and matters of public interest, an extremely negative attitude towards lobbying prevails in Slovenia, often equating the practice with corruption.” An active debate should take place in order to show how ethical and transparent lobbying can strengthen democratic processes, and how providing space for wide participation allows for a diversity of input necessary for public interest.
“Slovenia, with the foundation of its current regulation, could be in a position to act as a leader on this issue in Europe if only it were to adopt recommendations highlighted in the report. The latter would ensure transparency and integrity of lobbying, improve regulation and oversight, and also raise awareness among stakeholders and the general public” Vid Doria added. TI Slovenia proposes changes to legal regulations, amendments to the political party financing regulation, establishment of self-regulation mechanisms and the development of a comprehensive ethics and awareness raising programme for all stakeholders.
The report Lobbying in Slovenia – Call for Transparent and Ethical Lobbying is a part of a regional project involving the assessment of lobbying regulation and practice in 19 European countries. The research was conducted on the basis of an international methodology using a series of 65 assessment questions. The purpose of the report on lobbying in Slovenia is to: evaluate the existing regulations, policies and practices of lobbying in Slovenia; identify risks of corruption and other risks and cases pertaining to the lack of control over lobbying; underline promising lobbying practices in Slovenia; provide recommendations and solutions to decision-makers and representatives of interest groups in the public and private sector.
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