Lobbying refers to attempts made by interest groups with the intention of influencing authorities, decision-makers and the legislature. It is important to understand that lobbying is a central and legitimate element of the democratic process. Lobbying makes it possible for interest groups to understand, follow and shape how laws and other regulations are formed. This process, when characterized by integrity and transparency, can be of positive influence to policy-making. However, the resources available to interest groups as well as the close relationship between members of the business sector and legislators can lead to dishonest exercising of influence concerning governance, which, in turn, significantly increases the risk of corruption. Public confidence in policy-making has plummeted recently when several matters essentially questioned if particular policies were representing the interest of the public or a certain interest group. Stemming from this, effective and transparent regulations regarding lobbying are necessary in decreasing the risk of corruption, since all parties have a right to know the intentions and relations behind the establishment of particular laws and policies. Transparency International’s 2012 National Integrity Study has identified the lack of laws regulating lobbying as one of the most substantial problems in regard to numerous institutions. Concerning legislature, the study has found that because of the current situation, the legislation process is not transparent and furthermore lacking the appropriate consultation mechanisms. One of the most influential weakness of the public sector is the inadequate regulation of lobbying. The aim of the study titled The situation and regulation of lobbying was to get an overview on international best practices in lobbying, and was carried out based on the accessible international examples and interviews conducted with Hungarian businessmen, legislators, law enforcers and experts on lobbying. With the help of the interviewees, we took into account why the 2006 (XLIX.) law concerning lobbying, repealed in 2011 wasn’t able to fulfill its role and what would the necessary steps and elements be to establish an operating lobbying system.

Lifting the lid on lobbying

Transparency International Hungary examined the Hungarian regulations on lobbying, the Hungarian business environment and strategic agreements between the government and 50 companies from the viewpoint of transparency and predictability. The country report presented in Budapest on October 28 was prepared as part of a comprehensive study of the regulation and practice of lobbying in 19 European Union member states, supported by the European Commission. The comparative international results and the country rankings will be published by TI’s central secretariat in Berlin – which also coordinates the multi-country study – in early 2015.

Lobbying is not a success story in Hungary. Neither the prevailing rules nor its practice are adequate and the situation has only gotten worse in recent years, according to the findings of a Transparency International (TI) study presented to the public in Budapest on October 28. The lack of regulation and the unprecedented concentration of power have both contributed to hidden, “unorthodox” forums of lobbying being created in Hungary; the strategic agreements between the government and corporations can be considered one such forum. With these agreements of a political and communication nature, the government differentiates arbitrarily between market players. In the absence of a relevant law, companies lobby in an uncontrolled and intransparent manner, therefore there is not even a chance of ever finding out which strategic agreement was decided in the VIP sector of a football game and which one in one of the government’s eastern business delegations.

 

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