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August 3, 2021

Lobby bill dropped

The speaker of the Chamber of Deputies says that he removed the law from the agenda, following countless phone calls received from embassies.

The speaker of the Chamber of deputies, Valeriu Zgonea, the chairman of the Law Committee of the Lower House, Bogdan Ciuca, MEP Adina Valean, senator Mircea Geoana, the chairman of the Board of the European  Institute in Romania, Leonard Orban, experts, lawyers and people directly involved in lobbying yesterday attended the conference “Mediafax Talks about Lobby”, organised by the news agency Mediafax jointly with the Association of the Romanian Lobby Registry, the main topic being the transparency of the lobby activity, in the context of the present draft law proposed by the Law Committee of the Chamber of Deputies  in December 2013.
Former European commissioner Leonard Orban criticised the draft law on lobby, which is in Parliament, saying that it does not answer the three desiderata: transparency, integrity and ethical behaviour. He also criticised the fact that the law might result in the appearance of the same category of “lobbyists that will be the only entitled to lobby the Romanian and European authorities, in order to modify some legal provisions, or related to the modification of some national or European policies.” “I believe that, in its currently proposed form, the law not only does not help the lobby, but can also pose significant problems for the various actors, not only in the business zone, in their approaches aimed at shaping some nationwide positions and, later, influencing the decisions at European scale,” Orban said, adding that more time is needed in order to find formulas and legal provisions meant to significantly improve this draft law. “I personally support the idea of regulation in this field, but it is preferable to have a thoroughly considered law, otherwise it would be better for us to have self-regulation or nothing at all,” the former European commissioner explained.
The speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Valeriu Zgonea explained why the Lower House promoted a Law of the lobby, initiated by PSD deputy Constantin Nita, which subsequently came under fire from all sides. “Our purpose was to warn that Romania currently needs more transparency in the legislative process and that a law of lobby, a registry of interests are important, but we cannot make this decision on our own,” Zgonea mentioned. He explained that the lobby bill would not have produced effects even if voted in this form, because the normal procedure was not concluded. Moreover, Zgonea admitted that he received phone calls from embassies, associations and groups of interests that convinced him to withdraw the act from the final vote. Asked why he was called by embassy officials, Zgonea explained: “Because the law, in the form it is promoted, only makes things more puzzling.” As a conclusion, he said that the law can be improved and debates on this act will resume in the Law Committee. Zgonea also argued that the government, too, supports the regulation of lobbying and the Parliament will be part of the dialogue with the actors interested in it, so it can promote a law they accept.
PSD senator Mircea Geoana believes that lobby must be removed from the agenda for a while, because the moment when it was initiated is incandescent, given it was promoted largely at the same time as the law of amnesty and the modification to the Penal Code, two controversial documents. “I do not think that this hot potato must be amplified. People are anxious in Brussels to see whether there is an intention of a repeat,” Geoana mentioned. He added that the discussion on the lobby law is “a tip of iceberg,” because this debate is a small part of a larger and very complicate debate on transparency and governance in Romania. “(…) All kind of questions start appearing. Could it be that we disguise interest peddling into a law, could it be that we find a supplementary formula for creating, in fact, a rough playground where people with influence and access can shift the public and legal decision?” the former minister of Foreign Affairs added. Geoana also criticised the government’s motivation to this law, saying that there is more documentation and content at a Mediafax conference than what the Government of Romania includes in a sensitive document.
In her turn, liberal MEP Adina Valean explained that the keyword for the lobby activity is “transparency,” as there are MEPs who make public, on a daily basis, their meetings with company officials. According to Valean, almost half of the talks she has in the European Parliament are with the representatives of various activity sectors interested in the problems pertaining to industry. Valean believes that, in the legislative process of lobbying, the essential importance goes to the dialogue with all the activity sectors targeted by a regulation, as well as using expertise from outside public institutions and the Parliament.

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