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Lobbying in parliament

Law proposal that is sent to deputies will not solve some of the key problems, although it is good that it will finally be passed, and there are also some good rules. Although lively public debate was organized on the draft law, the explanation of the law does not include the consideration of unaccepted proposals nor has a report been published from a public hearing, which is mandatory on the basis of the Rules of Procedure of the Government. After more than a decade of waiting in relation to the previous plans, the work on that law was activated due to the negative publicity to the GRECO statement that Serbia did not fulfill any of recommendations of the fourth round of evaluation. One of these recommendations is asking Serbia to regulate lobbying legislators.

Among unresolved problems, which we pointed out earlier, are the following:

1. The law does not affect attempts to influence the adoption of individual decisions, but only general legal acts; although most legislators in the world act in a similar way, there is no doubt that it would be equally important to regulate these issues;

2. Through law regulates the reporting of the Anti-Corruption agency on lobbying, but not the release of these data; there is no reporting obligations related to unofficial lobbying – attempts to influence which are exerted before sending of official letters on lobbying

3. This (or any other law) is not engaged in solving a serious problem – that state authorities remain silent on the reasoned initiative of citizens, organizations and businesses to adopt or modify any regulation or to arbitrarily choose which of these initiatives to consider.

On the other hand, compared to the draft, Law proposal is revised so as resolved the issue of lobbying which is focused on some of the advisers of public officials, because they are covered by the term “working engaged persons”. However, it is illogical that it will still be outside of the scope of law lobbying that is directed at those members of working groups that are writing laws and who are not engaged in government work, nor are they paid by labor authorities in the working group, but are working as independent experts.

One of the controversial and illogical solutions in the draft law is that a compulsory training for lobbyists is foreseen, which would be carried out by the Anti-Corruption Agency.

Namely, state authorities can and should supervise the implementation of the law and have control over the fulfillment of set rules.

On the other hand, since lobbying is done for the interests of interested clients, the state has no reason to protect these clients from their own wrong decisions. If the client believes that his interests will be well represented to the authorities by someone who is not trained to lobby, there is no justified reason why the state should prevent him from doing so.

Law proposal explicitly states that public announcement of attitudes and submission of proposals, expert opinions and initiatives related to the adoption of regulations is not considered as lobbying although this is undoubtedly one of the forms of lobbying. This is the usual way of acting not only by individuals who are directly interested in the adoption and content of regulations, but also professional mediators who tend to influence public opinion and decision makers for the needs of their clients. From this it could be concluded that the subject of lobbying to which the rules of this law will apply will be only those situations when the addresses to the state authorities have not been made publicly, but through letters to the state bodies that have not been published, as well as through direct personal addresses to officials and employees.

The law recognizes registered lobbyists and natural and legal persons operating as unregistered lobbyists. The latter can lobbying if they are legal representatives or employees of “lobbying user” or represent the interests of the association or company whose member is user of lobbying.

It could therefore be concluded that in the future it will be forbidden that a group of citizens or a firm contact the state authorities and officials related to passing law through an intermediary that does not belong to any of these categories.

In practice, state authorities will be able to conclude that it is a matter of lobbying, not selfrepresentation of their own interests, only if the person who is lobbying on irregular way just says something like that. Namely, advocating for the adoption or amendment of regulations must not be accompanied by a claim that this regulation is changed or brought in for the interests of a person, group or company. As a result, the question is to what extent this law will be able to change something in practice.

The solution to all mentioned problems is a reversal of focus – instead of regulating who can lobby, it would be better that the emphasis is on actions of the authorities, officials and civil servants, their duty to announce who addressed them and with which proposals, and also to respond to any substantiated proposal for the improvement of regulations and practices.

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