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, the national chapter of Transparency International, the global coalition against corruption.
The report “Lobbying in Bulgaria: Interests, Influence, Politics” shows that there are significant deficits in the transparency, integrity and equality of access regarding the 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 score of only 25% overall.
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%).
Alongside an assessment of the 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 the 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 Ethicsto ensure integrity in the process of drafting laws and including input from interest groups; facilitation of open and accessiblepublic 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.
The aims of this political document are to offer a framework for informed civic and political action on the issues, related to increasing the transparency, integrity and equality of influence over the process of elaboration and implementation of political decisions in Bulgaria.
The full text of the Policy paper “Transparency, integrity and equality of influence over policy-making in Bulgaria”, published by Transparency International-Bulgaria in June 2015 can be found here.
The Supplement to the Policy paper – Guiding standards for transparency of influence over public policies can be found here.
This report examines the practice of lobbying and the attempts to regulate it in 19 European countries and within the three core EU institutions. It comes at a time when public trust in government is at an all-time low and the practice of lobbying is widely associated with secrecy and unfair advantage. It also comes at a moment when an increasing number of governments in Europe are promising to tackle the problem of undue influence in politics, and the need for good government is particularly pressing given the range of economic, social and political challenges currently faced by European countries and EU institutions.
Lobbying is an integral part of a healthy democracy, closely related to universal values such as freedom of speech and the right to petition of government. It allows for various interest groups to present their views on public decisions that may come to affect them. It also has the potential to enhance the quality of decision-making by providing channels for the input of expertise on increasingly technical issues to legislators and decisionmakers.
Despite this, multiple scandals throughout Europe demonstrate that without clear and enforceable rules, a select number of voices with better resourcing and contacts can come to dominate political decision-making.
The full text of the report “Lobbying in Europe: hidden influence, privileged access”, published by Transparency International on 15 April 2015 can be accessed here.
The Responsible Lobbying Guide is an effort of Transparency International to present the guiding practices and standards in the area of self-regulation of lobbying. It aims to help lobbyists, executives and activists from the private and non-profit sectors understand:
1. What is meant by ‘responsible lobbying’,
2. The principles that underpin responsible lobbying and political engagement, and
3. How those principles should be applied in practice.
The text can be downloaded here.
The guide is divided into four sections. The first section provides an overview of common lobbying techniques, describes how lobbying can be abused, and then explains what we mean by responsible lobbying. The following section provides an explanation of the five principles for responsible lobbying, how they might be implemented, together with examples of how companies, professional bodies and non-profit groups have applied these principles in practice. The third section contains ten hypothetical scenarios that should help the practitioner reflect on some of the ethical dilemmas faced by lobbyists, executives and activists; the possible approaches they might take in facing those dilemmas; and some of the principles at stake in each scenario. Finally, we provide a summary of existing resources and helpful guides to lobbying published over the past ten years.
The Responsible Lobbying in Europe report identifies and analyses initiatives used by professional lobbyists to build trust among their stakeholders, to prevent abuse when engaging with policy makers and to promote responsible lobbying. These measures include:
- Professional codes of conduct and training facilitated by Public Relations and lobbying associations
- Standard setting initiatives led by organisations such as the UN Global Compact and the International Corporate Governance Network
- Reporting standards produced by the Global Reporting Initiative and others
- The study also reviews available data and analysis on the implementation of these and other global initiatives to promote responsible lobbying. It does not evaluate the performance of individual programmes or the implementation of those programmes by individual firms.
- Civil society professionals and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practitioners who are interested in learning about initiatives aimed at promoting responsible lobbying standards within the private sector. The research should also help promote responsible lobbying standards within the non-profit sector.
Both publications have been produced by TI Ireland in the framework of the “Lifting the Lid on Lobbying initiative”.