Justice Ministers Procrastinate Over Lobby Register

“Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today,” said Thomas Jeferson, the third American President. Unfortunately our Ministers of Justice seem to enjoy putting off creating a lobby register by commissioning endless reports repeating what everybody already knows.  

So far two right-wing ministers have succeeded in stopping the creation of a lobby register for almost 4 years. 

Another Report on Lobbying in Finland published in February 2021

It is unbelievable that a new study was commissioned last year and was published only in Finnish in February. It just repeats what we already know: 

  • Lobbying includes informal practices thaht play a significant role. 
  • Lobbying is a planned activity that seeks long-term relationships by building trust between lobbyists and decision-makers. 
  • The main lobbying targets are ministers and key ministry officials. 
  • The main lobbyists are employers’ organizations – trade unions are less important
  • Central to lobbying is influencing the early preparation phase of the process. 
  • The effectiveness of lobbying is related to the status and reputation of the lobbying organization and the lobbyist’s personal skills.

The study points to certain shortcomings in the openness and transparency of lobbying. There is a wealth of official information available on lobbying, but it is difficult to exploit and informal lobbying is hard to follow.

Then the report has a real jewel of misleading information, that can only be interpreted as veiled threat from the powerful lobbying groups that can have little or no real meaning:

“…the research results suggest that increasing the openness and transparency of lobbying may, in addition to the intended effects, have a detrimental effect on trust between actors.”

Given that employers’ lobbies are the most active lobbyists its stands to reason that the whole purpose of their lobbying activities is to change the content of laws to ensure that companies can operate more freely and continue to maximise their profits. Secondly why do politicians need to trust lobbyists and why should a lobbyist trust politicians? 

The Minister of Justice states that this report is based on extensive and multidisciplinary literature analysis, documentary analysis, interview and observation materials which are part of the Ministry of Justice’s preparation of the Transparency Register. It looks like the lobbyists have been super active here too!

Just to help readers understand the recent history of the Lobby Register – here are some interesting quotes from past articles in FinnishNews:

No Lobbyist Registers yet in Nordic countries (FinnishNews 21.9.2018)

None of the Nordic countries, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway have set up lobbyist registers, which is rather surprising given that all 4 countries like to bask in the light of having transparent government and the lowest levels of corruption.

One wonders whether the absence of lobbyist registers is evidence that lobbyists and their targets prefer to hide their meetings, or are we to believe that we do not need lobbyist registers because we are so clean and honest?

… seeing that Finland is full of big oligopolistic companies in retail, banking, insurance, pensions, forestry, media, dairy, construction, healthcare, etc., there is plenty to be concerned about, especially when we know that the big political parties have strong connections to a number of  these companies…

A new report ordered by the Finnish government from the University of Eastern Finland throws some light on this topic. The report takes a look at lobbyist registers in the UK, Ireland, Austria and the USA as well as the OECD recommendations. 

Ms. Emilia Korkea-aho, the lead writer of the report, recommended that Finland should consider implementing the Irish solution which is described in detail in the report.

Lobbyists are here to stay – secretly (FinnishNews 13.5.2019)

Politicians from all the parties, including those in opposition have been discussing why lobby groups are involved in political decision-making. All parties see obvious conflicts of interest, except when their own lobby friends are involved.

The most scary lobbyists represent the banks and big companies here in Finland and they are all grouped together in the powerful Confederation of Finnish Industries (called EK). They basically fund and control the political macinations of the Conservative Party. 

Nothing gets done without EK’s blessing – we have an economy dominated by oligopolistic practices that bring in huge profits in banking in retail, in construction and in many other important sectors. So it is little wonder that lobbyists are well entrenched and will continue to be…

EU and others Conceal Lobbyist Meetings (FinnishNews 26.8.2019)

According to the EU Observer, Mr. Selmayr did not keep records of his meetings with lobbyists – it is estimated that he held at least 21 meetings with organisations, companies, and think tanks during the 16 months he held this high office!

The EU’s Justice Affairs Commissioner also does not have minutes of her meetings with Facebook and Google, she said, “I don’t know why we didn’t record what we spoke about, and I would wish to have such reports.”

Given that the EU has 28 nations as members, it is strange that the discussions of these meetings are not recorded and distributed automatically to all member states because they are surely of great significance for them!

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