Today we publish an article written by Giuseppe Mazzei about PACE Community and lobbying in Europe.
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Lobbying in Italy, unfortunately, is affected by a strong negative perception due to prejudices and a lack of information that prevent to identify what ‘public affairs’ consist of. No acknowledgment is given to the profession of the lobbyist, while lobbying is even considered as an activity that overlapses to corruption or lack of transparency. The word lobby is still used as a synonymous of equivocal relations among private and public interests. It’s a sort of a passepartout used in any occasion to lay the blame of a decision to occult groups instead of the people who took the decision. Our association “Il Chiostro”, that aims to promote the culture, the practice and the regulation of the transparency during the process of representation of interests, strives against this type of prejudice. Our goal is giving a professional identity to this activity, while defending its dignity and importance.
We want a regulation based on transparency and fair play.
We support the need of a national law that specifies the requirements and the qualifications that lobbyists must have, their rights and duties and clarifies the main features of a National Register. It’s necessary to clearly express incompatibilities and sanctions, since this is the only way to set up a proper dialogue with the policy makers. We strongly believe in the importance of regional laws in order to adapt the National rule to the single local realities.
However, the Italian reality is not an exception in Europe. Other European countries share the same anomalies in lobbying, that need to be removed. Starting from this assumption, Il Chiostro has launched in Rome the first initiative of “Public Affairs Community of Europe” (P.A.C.E), the first committee made up by European lobbyists, with the intent to create a continuous collaboration between all the European lobbyist associations and public affairs professionals of the 27 EU Countries and of the non-EU Nations that operate in Brussels. European delegates met in Rome for the 1st European conference of Public Affairs professionals and lobbyist associations, held by Il Chiostro in May 2011; during the conference, with the constitution of the Community, they undertook to formalize in the next meetings a “Bill of rights and duties of European Lobbyists”, on the basis of a proposal suggested by Il Chiostro. The next- meeting of this unprecedented Conference, the first one ever organized neither in Italy nor in Europe, will be held in Madrid under the aegis of PACE. This event has been the foundation stone of a more active role of lobbying in Europe. In his speech at the conference, Tony Podesta, one of powerbroker American lobbysts and president of the ‘’Podesta group’’, has underlined the importance of an international meeting on lobbying. We are very proud of having sponsored the birth of the European Committee that will coordinate the activities of the 27 European countries lobbying associations. Public Affairs Community of Europe will work hard in order to fulfill its commitment:
Lobbying based on legality and a clear and transparent dialogue with the institutions, with strong sanctions for any unfitting conduct that may lead to corruption.
The meeting in Rome has been an important opportunity for sharing National experiences about lobbying regulations, as well as a moment for practical exercises to improve our profession. The dialogue has highlighted a heterogeneous European context, with, in some cases, great difficulties for a “normal” lobbying activity. It’s significant that the need of strong modern rules to prevent conflict of interests and erase any prejudice towards lobbying has been mostly expressed from the youngest European democracies, as Romania, Poland and Lithuania.
In order to promote a regulation for a more transparent way of making public affairs, the European delegates have underlined the need of a continuous dialogue and the definition of common and shared actions in order to deal current problems in the single countries. Problems and obstacles concerning the possibility of carrying out this activity with transparency and opportunities’ equality, with dialogue and mutual respect among interests’ bearers and policy makers.
Few weeks ago, The EU Parliament approved, according with the EU Commission, the creation of a voluntary register for Lobbyists who want to have access to the institutions. It’s an important step towards the fundamental value of transparency in lobbying. Il Chiostro’s hope is that Italy as well would set up a clear and well-defined regulation of public affairs activity.