Regulation of lobbying activities in Bulgaria and the experience of the EU and the U.S. discussed at a two-day conference entitled: „The Roles of Lobbyists"
22 – 23 November, 2010
The forum is organized by the National Assembly and the Economic Policy Institute, with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria.
At the opening of the conference on November 22, 2010, the president of the National Assembly Tsetska Tsacheva noted that the regulation of lobbying is part of a whole set of legal rules, which should ensure transparency of the political process in modern society. She pointed out that the American model of regulation provides strict obligations for lobbyists to disclose information for the purpose and budget of their activities. The European Commission operates a special register where lobbyists can enroll on a voluntary basis, while the European Parliament has set up an "accreditation system" for all persons and organizations willing to have access to the institution. Poland and Lithuania have adopted special laws on lobbying. The speaker of parliament focused on the experience and practice in Germany, where she said every year the Bundestag publishes a list of all persons and organizations asking to express their positions and views on legislative issues. She added that the problems accumulated so far in Bulgaria in this respect should be addressed.
“We are not ready yet for a comprehensive law on lobbying”, said Tsetska Tsacheva. She mentioned the failed attempts of previous parliaments to adopt such a law and the fact that in Bulgaria there are no professional, paid lobbyists whose work is to put through the parliament one or another legislative initiative.
According to Tsetska Tsacheva the realities and social practices in Bulgaria and the present stage of development of the legislation suggest the introduction of rules and norms to regulate lobbying comparable to the model of the European Commission. The introduction of public register will reflect the participation in the legislative process of the civil society in the broadest sense. The register will keep record of the proposals submitted to the National Assembly and the involvement of the standing committees later on. She expressed her hope that such registers will become available by the end of the autumn session of the National Assembly.
The U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria, James Warlick, expressed the view that Bulgaria should establish a legal framework for lobbying. The question is whether lobbyism happens, how it happens and how it can be controlled, he specified. In his words rules and ethical standards should be put in place in order to achieve transparency. According to Ambassador Warlick lobbyists must be registered and much like the members of Congress in the US their activities should become transparent - with their daily schedule and meetings with companies available to anyone.