30th May 2023


The OECD asks — how should we improve lobbying regulation?

  • Lobbyists simply do not declare themselves as 'lobbyists', and thus submit no information into the lobbying register — and thus game over for transparency (Photo: Daniel Huizinga)
Listen to article

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has started the consultation process for its new recommendation on lobbying regulation.

And as the principal author of the draft, I'd like to see many meaningful comments and suggestions from all kinds of stakeholders.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The rationale behind the revision of the original 2010 OECD Recommendation on Lobbying and most notable changes, are as follows.

Getting lobbying regulation right has proven a gargantuan task.

In many countries, lobbying regulation bills repeatedly got stuck in various stages of the legislative process, often despite having been designed as a bare version and further stripped down in previous stages.

In those countries with lobbying regulations in place, dissatisfaction with its functioning is common.

The new OECD recommendation is meant to help.

Lobbying is a strange thing.

The need for regulating it is evident, but even defining it is extremely hard because lobbyists argue it is simply communication, seeking the shelter of free-speech protections.

Combine this with the lobbyists' reluctance to be labelled as such — and it's clear that the grey area around lobbying and lobbyists is enormous. Arguably, as a result, any regulation built around these definitions is doomed to fail.

The revised OECD recommendation avoids the dependence on the definition of the very subject it is meant to regulate. Instead of regulating ephemeral lobbyists, "lobbying" regulations should fight any undue influence on public decision-making processes — and the revised Recommendation has been built around this principle.

'I'm not a lobbyist' — and the game is over

Principles aside, the revised recommendation contains particular provisions that might prove game-changing. Among them is the so-called regulatory footprint, a register of influence activities related to a particular public decision-making process.

Merely mentioned in the 2010 recommendation, the regulatory footprint is now considered a mandatory part of the recommended regulatory setup.

At first sight another meaningless red tape, the regulatory footprint enables cross-checking the information about influence activities submitted by lobbyists in so-called lobbying registries.

These have been required since the 2010 OECD Recommendation on Lobbying and almost all lobbying regulations around the world are built around them. But they alone can hardly be considered a powerful enforcement tool.

Lobbyists simply do not declare themselves as lobbyists, and thus submit no information into the lobbying register — and thus game over for transparency.

Under a regulation based on the revised recommendation, a public official will disclose the lobbyist's efforts in the regulatory footprint — and anyone can reveal the discrepancy.

Of course, such non-compliance alone might become yet another non-existent issue for the (non)-lobbyist — unless the lobbying regulation really builds on the revised recommendation.

It provides that standards and guidelines for public officials require them to check the credibility of whoever they deal with. Credibility of a lobbyist who fails to fulfil their basic duty cannot be high and the public official must take it into account…see how powerful this combination might be if the revised recommendation is implemented in a serious way?

The revised recommendation contains many further changes. I think an overhaul was needed after those years of countries' efforts to get lobbying regulation right (and enforceable) — and given how fast is the influence landscape changing.

Hopefully, the stakeholders will provide us with valuable feedback and the final version of the recommendation will be a helpful resource for countries in their efforts to reinforce their frameworks for fighting undue influence and improving their decision-making.

Author bio

Matej Blazek is an expert in lobbying regulation and a principal author of the draft revised OECD Recommendation on Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying. Besides working with the OECD on a contract basis, he serves as the senior ministerial counsellor with the Czech Ministry of Justice's anti-corruption unit.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Brussels 'becoming like Washington' for revolving-doors

'A slow build-up of weak or unethical decision making leads over time to crises that can inflict an enormous human and financial cost', warns the EU Ombudsman writing for EUobserver ahead of Ursula von der Leyen's State of Union speech.

MEPs host aviation lobby dinner on eve of climate vote

German liberal MEP Jan-Christoph Oetjen and Romanian centre-right MEP Marian-Jean Marinescu have organised a dinner in Strasbourg with Airlines for Europe (A4E). The dinner takes place on the eve of a crucial vote on climate change laws.

The secretive EU body that likes to say 'no'

With the significant influence it can have on EU legislation, it is disturbing that the Regulatory Scrutiny Board is allowed to operate largely in secret. EU citizens and even MEPs have no insight into how the RSB reaches its decisions.

The EU needs to foster tech — not just regulate it

The EU's ambition to be a digital superpower stands in stark contrast to the US — but the bigger problem is that it remains far better at regulation than innovation, despite decades of hand-wringing over Europe's technology gap.

EU export credits insure decades of fossil-fuel in Mozambique

European governments are phasing out fossil fuels at home, but continuing their financial support for fossil mega-projects abroad. This is despite the EU agreeing last year to decarbonise export credits — insurance on risky non-EU projects provided with public money.

Latest News

  1. EU clashes over protection of workers exposed to asbestos
  2. EU to blacklist nine Russians over jailing of dissident
  3. Russia-Ukraine relations the Year After the war
  4. Why creating a new legal class of 'climate refugees' is a bad idea
  5. Equatorial Guinea: a 'tough nut' for the EU
  6. New EU ethics body and Moldova conference This WEEK
  7. How the EU's money for waste went to waste in Lebanon
  8. EU criminal complicity in Libya needs recognition, says expert

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  2. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us