What is the difference between lobbying and corruption? Most people would probably agree that lobbying and advocacy are necessary parts of democracy, carried out by everyone from industry bodies, to trade unions, to anti-war protesters, to environmental NGOs and civil society groups.
However, it’s not uncommon for senior politicians to be given highly-paid positions as consultants immediately after leaving office, relying on their network of contacts to help influence policy. Is such a ‘revolving door’ between the public and private sector open to abuse? Should there be a ‘cooling off’ period, to ensure that the promise of a lucrative lobbying career doesn’t influence decision-making while in office?
In France, members of parliament don’t even have to wait until they’re voted out, they can legally carry out paid lobbying work while holding office. And revolving doors, of course, work both ways: in Portugal, for example, half of all cabinet posts since the country became a democracy in 1974 have been occupied by people from the financial sector.
Earlier in 2015, Transparency International released a report arguing that national lobbying rules in the EU often fall below international standards and best practices, with many European countries completely lacking dedicated lobbying laws or regulations.
Should the rules around lobbying in Europe be tightened up to prevent corruption? What happens when the line is blurred between the two? We had a question sent in by Marijus asking simply: “What is the difference between lobbying and corruption?”
To get a response, we spoke to Ivan Krastev, Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies, a Bulgarian NGO that carries out research and analysis into issues including corruption and the democratisation of post-Communist countries. Here’s what he had to say:
We also had a comment sent in from Afiq from Malaysia, who argued that the EU should be given powers to step in and tackle corruption at the national level. Did Ivan Krastev think this could be a helpful development in some Member States?
Is some lobbying just a legalised form of corruption? Should the rules around lobbying in Europe be tightened up to prevent corruption? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!