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The new lobby law must be implemented with restraint

The new Law on Transparency of Interest Representation has been in force for almost a year, and now the first version of the Cabinet of Ministers' Regulations has been drafted to implement its provisions in practice. The biggest concern and worry is the excessive administrative burden that may inevitably result from these Rules.

In Latvia, many associations, unions and other interest representative groups operate on a voluntary basis to communicate with state institutions on behalf of their members. They do not have many resources and therefore need a clear, enforceable and simple framework.

Kristaps Zariņš, a lecturer at Riga Stradiņš University and a member of the "Association of Interest Representatives", explained that the draft Cabinet Regulation provides for the declaration of interest representatives - natural persons, indicating the sector they represent. Participants of the seminar noted that the procedure included in the draft Regulation for choosing the field to be represented is in a way similar to registering a company, where one has to choose the fields of activity. Although the rationale is understandable, the range of possible fields is extremely wide - one has to choose from almost 150 proposed fields, and in a sense duplicates the information already available in the Register of Enterprises. Participants were not sure whether it would really be justified to duplicate information already held by the Register of Enterprises. Participants agreed that clarification was needed for many everyday situations in lobby work - for example, natural persons may be involved in different associations, so it should be clear how they would be identified and whether this would be duplicated with the data of the Register of Enterprises, how to deal with the situation where members of the Board of Directors of an association would be replaced by other members of the association in a particular communication with state institutions. These and other open questions call on public authorities to take the time to inform and educate the target group to which these Rules will apply, which will prevent a stream of possible misunderstandings and prevent a chaotic application of the Rules.

In his turn, Armands Gūtmanis, Head of Meta Advisory, who is also a member of the Board of the Association of Interest Representatives, called for a respectful approach to the development of the new regulation in order to implement the Law on Transparency of Interest Representation adopted by the Saeima. "The regulation should certainly avoid creating excessive administrative burdens, civil society should be given a secure and broad opportunity to participate in the legislative process. It would not be appropriate to put obstacles in the way of the presentation of the interests of different groups in society. Therefore, a much broader discussion with associations and civil society as a whole is definitely desirable before adopting a regulation with new restrictions," emphasised Mr Gūtmanis.

The discussion was attended by experts with extensive experience in interest representation and lobby work, representing both individual companies and business associations, universities and neighbourhood associations, including Bayer, ISA Solutions, Tet, Bio Venta, ZAB Voroncovs and the Wind Energy Association, the Agenskalns Neighbourhood Association, Sorainen, the Latvian United Poultry Industry Association, the Cooperation Council for Agricultural Organisations, the Latvian Electric Car Association, the Latvian Association of Insurers, the Association of Biopharmaceutical Producers in Latvia and others.

On the Law on Interest Representation.

The provisions of the Register of Representation of Interests and the system for declaring representation of interests are expected to enter into force on 1 September 2025 and will mainly regulate the activities of representatives of interests as natural persons in their dealings with state institutions and legislative bodies. The Law on Interest Representation entered into force on 1 January 2023 in order to ensure the openness of the interest representation process, to promote public confidence in interest representatives and public authorities, and to ensure fair and equal opportunities for all stakeholders to engage in interest representation, understood as a form of civic political participation.

The process of interest representation or lobbying is regulated by special laws in many countries. A number of international organisations of which Latvia is a member have pointed to the need to adopt regulations on lobbying. For example, the report of the fourth evaluation round of the Council of Europe's Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) recommended that Latvia should "introduce a legal framework setting out the procedure for parliamentarians to communicate with lobbyists and other stakeholders seeking to influence the legislative process".

The central concept of the Law on Transparency of Interest Representation is "interest representation", defined as direct or indirect communication by a private individual with a public authority representative in order to influence the initiation, adoption or application of a public decision, according to the annotation to the law.


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