Lobbying regulation conference
On 11 December 2020, Transparency International Latvia (TI Latvia) and Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee of the Latvian Parliament (Saeima), as well as the State Chancery organised a conference on developing a legal framework for lobbying in Latvia “The Road to Lobbying Regulation in Latvia”.
12.30–12.40 | Opening
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The conference was opened by Ināra Mūrniece, the Speaker of the Saeima, and Juris Rancāns, the Chair of the Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee of the Saeima.
Opening statement by Ināra Mūrniece, Latvian progress towards introduction of the legal framework and appreciation of the efforts of public and non-governmental bodies and individuals who participated in drafting the lobbying framework. “Legal framework for lobbying is one of the factors that will improve public awareness of various decisions made by the governing bodies,” Ināra Mūrniece, the Speaker of the Saeima.
Opening statement by Juris Rancāns, the Chair of the Defence, Internal Affairs and Corruption Prevention Committee of the Saeima, commitments of the Saeima and an overview of further steps in drafting the law.
12.40–13.00 | Introduction to the Open Government Partnership programme and commitments of Latvia
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Statement by Jānis Citskovskis, the Director of the State Chancery, and an overview of more than 10 years of history in drafting the lobbying framework in Latvia, and a vision of the lobbying process in the public administration. Commitment by Latvia to streamline lobbying as one of the directions set out in the Open Government Partnership Action Plan: realistic and practical solutions for more open, honest and fair public administration.
Statement by Peter Varga, Senior Regional Coordinator — Europe, Open Government Partnership, a description of a democratic and responsible society, incl. achievements made by Latvia in developing a whistleblowing system and protecting it at the European level. The place of lobbying or interest protection in the Open Government Partnership Action Plan, recent achievements of member countries and future challenges.
Four recommendations of Peter Varga for a successful lobbying framework according to the best international practices in administration: 1) clear, comprehensive definition of lobbying; 2) clear system for communication with the public; 3) public register of lobbyists; 4) Codes of Ethics for lobbyists and decision-makers.
Statement by Maria Emilia Berazategui, Interim Head of Policy and Advocacy, Transparency International Secretariat and an overview of the opportunities provided by the Open Government Partnership to governments, non-governmental organisations and other stakeholders to find a common solution to shared problems. Importance of cooperation and mutual trust in overcoming crisis and fighting corruption, as well as in mitigating its negative consequences.
Statement by Inese Tauriņa, Director, Delna — Transparency International Latvia. Opinion of Delna about the scope and objective of lobbying framework. Explanation of the negative connotation carried by the word lobbying in the Latvian language, and further public outreach, awareness raising and opinion diversification activities to explain the nature and benefits of interest protection. Delna’s invitation to lobbyists to share their best practices and discuss principles that should be taken into account in drafting and implementing the respective legal framework in Latvia.
13.00–14.10 | Session 1 | How to ensure transparency of the influence of private interests on decision-making? Latvian and European perspective
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Vision of the Latvian parliamentary Working Group for Transparent Lobbying Framework concerning the scope and opportunities provided by the forthcoming legal framework, presentations of international experts and recommendations to the Latvian government and public.
Opening statement by Inese Voika, Member of the Latvian Parliament, Chair of the Parliamentary Working Group on Transparent Lobbying Framework, and an overview of the progress achieved by the working group in drafting the new lobbying framework. Willingness of the Saeima to proceed now and earlier, as well as commitment of political parties and the civil society to continue making progress in drafting the respective legal framework. Saeima’s opinion about the scope of the regulatory framework and interest protection — it is an integral part of the democracy.
Presentation of Sergejus Muravjovas, Chief Executive Officer, Transparency International Lithuania, about the scope of the Lithuanian lobbying law, and its main principles since adoption in 2001. A description of lobbying activities and relationships between lobbyists and decision-makers, problems and challenges, recommendations for Latvia.
The view of Dr. Mariana Prats, Policy Analyst, Public Sector Integrity Division, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, about the lobbying framework as a means for increasing political participation and ensuring relevant information to decision makers to secure quality decisions. Lobbying regulation as a part of the general public administration. Impact of the global economic crisis (2009) on streamlining the lobbying at the national and global level. OECD recommendations to governments to improve the lobbying processes at the national level. An overview of countries who have partially or fully implemented a legal framework for lobbying.
Recommendations of Jakopo Leone, Chief of Democratic Governance and Gender Unit, OSCE Office for Democracy, Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), to Latvia with regards to developing the required legal framework with a focus on: 1) lobbying as an integral part of routine processes in a democratic society that we should not be afraid of but appreciate its positive contribution to the society; 2) lobbying as a part of a wider national political system that should be considered in the context of regulating political systems and the public; 3) a clear vision about a lobbyist register (who should be registered, how, what information should be entered), sanction system (proportional sanctions, their application and coordination) and codes of ethics. Support provided by the Office for Democracy, Institutions and Human Rights to the Latvian government in developing the required framework.
Presentation by Sherry Perreault, Head of Ethics and Lobbying Regulation, Standards in Public Office Commission, Ireland, about the Irish model for regulating lobbying and routine activities of the regulator. Sherry Perreault described the scope of the Irish lobbying register, registration procedure and processes, provided an insight in lobbying activities of lobbyists and decision makers, as well as in the sanction system.
14.20 – 15.45 | Session 2 | Discussion ‘Interest group representative or lobbyist: the case of Latvia’ and the conference summary
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Panel discussion of sectoral representatives about ways the lobbying framework will help to improve and influence public involvement in policy making.
Panelists: Līga Stafecka, Leading Researcher, Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS; Māris Vainovskis, Investment Protection and Court Efficiency work group chair, Foreign Investors’ Council in Latvia; Filips Rajevskis, Co-owner, Public Relations Agency “Mediju Tilts”; Kristīne Zonberga, Executive Director, Civic Alliance Latvia; Līga Menģelsone, Director General, Employers’ Confederation of Latvia; Agnese Alksne, Latvia Corporate social responsibility platform, Chair of the Board; Ivars Balodis, Chairman of the Board of the Association of Disabled People and their Friends “Apeirons”; and Inese Tauriņa, Executive Director, Transparency International Latvia. The panel discussion was joined by several MPs.
Līga Stafecka, “Lobbying framework will highlight the legislative process that could result in greater trust in the decision-making process in the future. Lobbying framework will influence the quality of decision-making demonstrating the scale of consultation.”
Līga Menģelsone, “The Employers’ Confederation of Latvia would like to see good-quality and timely consultations with decision makers to explain decisions to our partner organisations. The new legal framework should create a motivation system that encourages even more public engagement.”
Māris Vainovskis, “There are 3 main aspects that should be kept in mind during the lobbying process. First, you need to be very clear about what interests an organisation represents. Second, clear methods should be established to determine how interests are filtered. Third, the legislative process should be supplemented with an executive post-summary that would substantiate any amendments received during the legislative process and the parties who submitted them.”
Filips Rajevskis, “The law will more determine the “hygiene” of decision making to ensure that decisions can be made with “clean hands” by establishing a procedure for keeping a distance between lobbyists and decision-makers to allow to assess when the lobbying process is adequate and when it should be established that the distance is inadequate. (..) The law should be reasonably comprehensive to avoid situations when eventually only 3% of the lobbying market is regulated.”
Agnese Alksne, “Acting ethically and taking responsibility for their actions is in the interest of all companies and the non-governmental sector to openly define their interests and disclose parties for whose benefit they are protected. It helps to avoid reputation risks and practice openness.”
Ivars Balodis, “We need a legal framework that would define the rules of the game by establishing a procedure for protecting someone’s interests. The current practice shows that we face situations when the discussed questions are misrepresented and not considered on their merits.”
Peter joined Open Government Partnership’s Country Support Team in July 2016. He provides guidance and assistance to civil society organizations and governments across Europe (primarily in the North Sea/Baltic Sea region), supporting the development and implementation of open government reforms.
Emilia Maria Berazategi
Emilia Maria develops and implements the strategic global advocacy of the Transparency International movement, present in over 100 countries. Prior to joining TI, she worked for more than three years at Poder Ciudadano, the leading anticorruption organization in Argentina, and the TI’s chapter in the country.
Sergejus is the CEO of Transparency International Lithuania since 2008 and the founder of TransparencySchool.org. He has been working with transparency in politics and lobbying for almost a decade. Sergejus is also a mentor at People Powered | Global Hub for Participatory Democracy and a member of the Honorary Court of the Association of Public relations Agencies in Lithuania.
Mariana is currently working on public trust as a policy analyst in the Governance Indicators and Performance Evaluation team and has led the work on transparency and integrity in public policymaking in the public sector integrity team at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. She has taught and researched at universities in Argentina, the United States and France.
Jakopo has been working as a political analyst in the field of democracy assistance and governance for over eight years, with an exceptional focus on parliamentary strengthening, political party assistance, anti-corruption, public integrity, and civil society development. Currently at the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the principal institution of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, he monitors political developments and helps the participating states to work on democratic governance issues.
Sherry is Ireland’s first Head of Lobbying Regulation. On behalf of the Irish Standards in Public Office Commission, she oversees the Regulation of Lobbying Act, which came into effect in 2015. She has been working in the ethics field for more than a decade, in Ireland and Canada.
Inese is a good governance expert and a member of the 13th Saeima, and the Chair of the Parliamentary Working Group on Lobbying Transparency Regulation. She has more than 20 years of experience in transparency of state administration and corruption prevention in Latvia and elsewhere and has cooperated with various international organizations such as the Council of Europe, the UN Development Program, NATO, Transparency International and others.