16 April 2015

A Transparency International report assessing standards of lobbying across the European Union published yesterday produced some disheartening although not unexpected results. The authors of “Lobbying in Europe: Hidden Influence, Privileged Access” suggest that lobbying reform is overdue.

Of the 19 countries assessed, only three scored more than 50% when measured against international lobbying standards.  Political decision makers in most of the jurisdictions are largely unprotected from those with money and influence.

The report rates Slovenia as best protected because it has a sound anti lobbying framework. Cyprus and Hungary score worst, having few effective controls.  Italy, Portugal and Spain are not much better, having “risky” lobbying practices and close relations between the public and financial sectors.  Ironically intensive lobbying has been effective in hobbling reform proposals.

Alcohol, tobacco and cars are noted as common lobbying tools.

To ensure that lobbying does not lead to corruption, the report lists remedial characteristics. The recommendation is that all countries and EU institutions must:

  • Regulate lobbying to cover everyone who engages in lobbying activities and all key lobbying targets.
  • Establish mandatory registers of lobbyists, their clients, their targets, and how they seek to influence decisions.
  • Track and publish external influences on legislation and record the contact between lobbyists and public officials
  • Establish or amend minimum “cooling-off periods” before former public and elected officials can work in lobbying positions that may create or be seen to create conflicts of interest.

The report also recommended that anyone seeking to influence public policy must publish information on their advocacy and lobbying activities and expenditure.

Country / Institution % Score


Slovenia 55
European Commission 53
Lithuania 50
United Kingdom 44
Austria 40
Ireland 39
Latvia 39
European Parliament 37
Netherlands 34
Poland 33
Czech Republic 29
Estonia 29
France 27
Slovakia 26
Bulgaria 25
Germany 23
Portugal 23
Spain 21
Italy 20
Council of the EU 19
Hungary 14
 Cyprus  13
Coincidentally a presentation in Wellington yesterday, coordinated by Transparency International NZ, explored the implications of anti bribery legislation needed before New Zealand can comply with requirements for ratification of the UN Convention Against Corruption.  The conversation on occasions widened into discussing the corrupting effects of lobbying and buying access to and influence through political decision makers.  


There seemed to be a general belief among speakers that the absence of lobbying controls in New Zealand has a corrosive and corrupting potential. There remains little evidence of political will to give effect to the obligations New Zealand has, as an OECD member state, to give effect to the Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying