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Clear rules for lobbying in Estonia

New State Employee Lobbying Guidelines

Lobbying and active participation by interest groups are part of democratic decision-making. Lobbying is direct or indirect, structured and organized activity by a lobbyist with public officials, policy makers or their representatives to influence policy decisions and represent their interests. Lobbying and interest-representative relationships must adhere to principles in order to be transparent and comprehensible to all.

Lobbyists can be attorneys, consultants, PR specialists, chambers of commerce and industry, professional and trade associations, trade unions, voluntary and interest groups, other organizations, associations and individuals. They usually represent the interests of economic operators or citizens.

On 11.03.2021 the Estonian Government adopted Lobbying Guidelines for Public Employees prepared by the Ministry of Justice. These were developed on the basis of recommendations by the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).

The guidelines on dealing with lobbyists apply to members at management level of ministries, heads of other government agencies as well as their deputies. Responsibility for implementing, complying with and controlling this practice lies with the head of the office. The document defines and clarifies the terms "lobbying" and "lobbyist".

A public officer or a person associated with them must not accept or solicit gifts or other benefits from a lobbyist or the person the lobbyist represents, except as a matter of common courtesy. Public officers must report publicly in detail on meetings with interest groups and lobbyists that take place in the course of professional activities.

A public officer who was acting as a lobbyist or on behalf of an interest group immediately prior to taking up office must not take any action or decision in relation to that lobbyist or interest group for a period of one year.

In addition, a public officer may not lobby their former office or colleagues on behalf of lobbyists or interest groups on which that officer made decisions in the last year of their term of office for at least one year after the end of their term of office.

For the first time, the guidelines create clear rules for Estonian public employees in terms of lobbying.

 

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