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de Victor Bratu , 1.10.2018

On Monday, Ministry for Business Environment launched the draft Emergency Ordinance on transparency in the area of lobbying and representation of interests.

The wish to legislate and regulate lobbying is old: since 2000, five similar drafts have been classified or rejected, while other two are theoretically in the legislative proceedings within the parliamentary committees, even though they were initiated in 2010, respectively 2011.

A first step towards regulating lobbying was made in 2016 when the Government approved the establishment of the Unique Interests Groups Transparency Register, a register where top decision makers from the government structure where required to announce their meetings with various business groups.

Sectors where lobbying is forbiden

According to the new proposal, the following are explicitly exempted from the ordinance:

  • public representatives’ activities related to the performance of their tasks according to the law
  • activities of a person by which they make use of his/her own non-entrepreneurial interests
  • making use of certain rights or the interest representation of a party or entity involved in relations with administrative or judicial authorities
  • legal advice or representation by attorneys, notaries, trustees and other authorized persons
  • using foreign policy interests within diplomatic or consular relations
  • activities carried out at the request of public representatives

The draft forbids a public representative to lobby during his/her mandate in his/her field of activity.

Lobby Register, in the care of Trade Registry Office

By ordinance, the Lobby and Interest Representation Register is established, a register to be administered by the Trade Register Office attached to Bucharest Municipal Court.

This register will contain three sections:

  • lobby companies
  • companies employing internal lobbyists
  • interest groups

The information from these three sections will be made available to the public free of charge in digital format.

Transparency, but up to a point

Contracting parties under a lobby agreement or lobbyists’ meetings with public representatives will also be notified to the registry and the information is stored in a special section of the register.

Accessing this final set of data by individuals or legal persons can only be made by paying a fee and only if a priority legal interest, as defined by Article 8 (2) of the European Convention on Human Rights, is justified.

The article to which the draft refers is: “It is not allowed the interference of a public authority in the exercise of this right (the right to private and family life – editor’s note) unless it is provided for by law and represents, in a democratic society, a necessary measure for the national security, public safety, country’s economic welfare, defence of order and prevention of criminal deeds, protection of health, morals, rights and freedoms of others.”

Fines for non-compliance

The draft lists the obligations of a lobbyist or a lobby company and establishes fines for non-compliance. The minimum fine is RON 50,000 and the highest RON 300,000.

Identifying and sanctioning contraventions will be carried out by the specialized personnel of the Public Finance Ministry. These penalties must be notified for registration in the Registry and the Trade Registry Office.

The Justice Minister has the prerogative to order the removal from the Registry of a lobby company that seriously and consistently violates the obligations of conduct.

A first step towards regulating lobby in Romania was made in 2016 when the Government decided to establish a so-called Unique Interests Groups Transparency Register (RUTI).

The draft adopted at the time was much richer in technical details and was also forcing the top government decision-makers to publish their meeting agenda in the register. RUTI was administered by the Ministry of Public Consultation and Social Dialogue, ministry dissolved by Prime Minister Viorica Dancila.

Law is being drafted, association already exists since 2010

Even though the specific legislation is now in the preparatory phase, the Romanian Lobbying Register Association (ARRL) has been operating for a while in Romania and it states that the activity has both legal and judicial recognition.

According to the association:

  • The recognition of the legality of this activity is given by O.M.F.P.S. 1832/2011, an order that approves the Classification of Occupations of Romania (COR) where the activity of “specialist in lobby” appears as legally recognized and certified at position 243220.
  • The judicial recognition of this activity is given by the decision of a court that approves the establishment of an association of companies and lobby professionals, namely the Romanian Lobbying Association.

“ARRL was established in June 2010 contribute to the awareness and promotion of the     lobby activity, considered a multidisciplinary activity that involves legal, economic, sociological and communication knowledge. ARRL functions as a Romanian legal person with a non-profit, non-governmental, autonomous and apolitical character,” writes the website of the association that encourages the registration in a Transparency Register of Lobby and Advocacy Activities, “a replica of the Transparency Registry of the European Parliament and the European Commission”.

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