Madrid, 5 February 2014 – Just as Spain makes its first steps towards regulating lobby activities, Access Info Europe CECU, CIECODE-Proyecto Avizor, La Fundación Ciudadana Civio, Open Kratio y Qué hacen los Diputados have warned of the need to consult civil society, and base any future regulation on advanced international standards in order to meet this new challenge for transparency. On 12 February, a Spanish Parliamentary Commission will decide whether lobbying is to be regulated or not
The civil society organisations believe that in order to follow decision-making processes and ensure that decisions are made in the public interest, greater transparency of interest group activities is fundamental. Access Info and others have made a series of proposals that could be incorporated into a Spanish lobby regulation law, together with how this can be achieved.
Firstly, it is important to highlight that lobbies interact with the executive as well as the legislative braches of government (particularly in Spain since most laws are presented on the initiative of the Government). In Spain, the debate on the regulation of lobbies only centres around the actions of lobbyists towards the Spanish Parliament. Civil society calls for lobbyists trying to influence the executive branch to also be included and regulated, as is already done in the EU.
Secondly, lobby transparency is not only about lobbyists providing information on their activities. It is also crucial that public institutions publish this kind of information, and that access to information laws ensure access, either through citizens making access to information requests or through proactive publication, to:
» Information on meetings between lobbyists and public officials
» Documents sent to public institutions by interest groups
» The publication of agendas of senior civil servants and minutes of meetings
» Documents presented or distributed during a decision-making meeting
» Submissions and evaluations of public consultations
» Documents consulted or used in making a decision
» The entry register to the Parliament and key government offices
In Spain, the above information should be available via the recently adopted Transparency Law 19/2013. Civil society highlights that the law will not be applicable to the Parliament which means any future lobby regulation should include provisions for transparency that will make lobbying activities as transparent as possible.
Finally, civil society points out that the future lobby regulation should be as complete as possible in order to be truely efficient when it comes to controlling private interests in public activities. To ensure this, a lobby regulation must incorporate:
1. The creation of an obligatory lobby register that meets these basic requirements:
» That it indicates who will be obliged to register and above all, what information should be public (organisation name, address and contact information, names of lobbyists working for the organisation, the lobbying objectives and laws/topics it wishes to influence, costs, etc.)
» That budgets and costs for lobbying are made public
» That published information is clearly accessible to the public, and continuously updated
2. Establish control over the “revolving doors” phenomenon through fixing a minimum ‘cooling off’ period between senior public officials leaving a public post and them taking up a job in lobbying. This measure already exists in Spain  but the cooling off period is not adhered to in practice.
3. Create a code of conduct for lobbyists. Competent public institutions, with input from civil society and lobbyists, should draw up a code of conduct for interest groups. ALTER-EU has made a proposal on this topic (which you can also see here) with measures that include:
» Respect by lobbyists for the cooling off period of EU public officials so as to avoid the revolving door phenomenon.
» Prohibition of lobbyists contracting MPs or their assistents.
» A clear definition of what is “inaproporiate behaviour” by lobbyists.
Helped by the International Lobby Transparency Guide, elaborated by The Sunlight Foundation, civil society in Spain aims for lobby regulation to also include:
» A specific definition of lobby, avoiding overly broad or limited definitions that create legal loopholes.
» Oblige lobbies to indicate if they employ former government ministers, who are their clients and what are their objectives, which politicians do they contact and on what topics, and what costs do they incur when lobbying.
» Create a completely independent control body that has the power to sanction non-complience.
For more information, please contact:
Victoria Anderica Caffarena | Access Info Europe
email@example.com +34 606 592 976
Notes: It has been known for a while that the Spanish Government is open to regulating lobbying and interest group activities thanks to, among others, this article in El País from 2013. This was confirmed on 20 January 2014 in the III Foro de Transparencia y Buen Gobierno organised by Fundación Chile-España and the Spanish Senate, as well as in these two El Confidencial articles from 22 and 26 January that, confirming official sources, the Parliamentary Comission would make its decision on 12 February as to whether to regulate lobbies in the Spanish Parliament or not. To find out more information, please consult Access Info’s report on Lobby Transparency through access to information.  In Spain, this control already exists officially. Law 5/2006, de 10 de abril, de regulación de los conflictos de intereses de los miembros del Gobierno y de los Altos Cargos de la Administración General del Estado establishes that “during the two following years from terminating the job as a public official, they are not allowed to offer their services to businesses or private organisations directly related to the competencies of the post just left”.  Click here to find out more on Access Info’s stance on future lobbying regulation.