“National politicians don’t want to reveal who they have meetings with, but this summer’s integrity scandals show that it is now high time to establish a register of lobbyists,” writes Anne-Lise Mørch von der Fehr.
If there are two lessons we can learn this year, it is that our politicians need to follow very clear rules. Furthermore, we, and in particular the media, need transparency and visibility on the work carried out by our politicians.
Today, the politicians are back in Stortingsalen and the tug-of-war over next year’s state budget is in full swing. The queue of lobbyists defending their heart problems is surely as long as in previous years. It’s good. This is how things should be done in an open and well-functioning democracy. It is therefore incomprehensible that we, who elected politicians, do not know who they meet and what they discuss when they work for us.
The left’s proposal on the register of lobbyists rejected
In the Norwegian Communications Association, the Norwegian Press Association, the Editors’ Association, the Norwegian Journalists’ Association and Transparency International Norway, we have been working for several years to establish a register lobbyists in the Storting.
We are calling for a record of who visits our elected officials, as increased transparency and a better understanding of political influence will help strengthen democracy and increase trust in political decision-making processes.
The government writes in the Hurdal program that it wants “Ensure that the Public Information Law and the principle of greater publicity are applied in all public enterprises.” Hasn’t the time come to introduce this principle also during meetings with politicians in Parliament and the government?
In 2024, Finland will be the first Nordic country to use a lobbyist register. They want transparency in lobbying against parliament and at ministerial level. They thus recognize that lobbying is an essential element of democratic decision-making processes. The EU, Germany, the USA and Canada have had lobbying registers for many years. Here, by June this year at the latest, a majority in the Storting voted against the proposal.
Liberal parliamentary representative Alfred Jens Bjørlo breathed a sigh of relief during the debate: “It is completely incomprehensible to me and to the liberals that this is still maintained by a majority in the presidency and a majority of the major parties, who simply believe that the whole of Press-Norway, the whole of Communication-Norway , all international bodies that work with openness, democracy and corruption, believes that Norway should introduce, not want to work.”
The counter-arguments are, among others, that a register of lobbyists will be difficult to manage. With today’s digital solutions, a registry should be easy to establish and use. Some also ask to meet representatives of the Storting, but do not want others to know about it. We have clarified that individuals can be exempted from the register if they wish.
This is how the best lobbyists work
Another argument is that the meetings will be moved outside the Storting. What about a register that is not limited to an address?
Economics professor Bård Harstad from the University of Oslo interviewed DN this winter if someone could turn on the light. He argued that Norway should be at the forefront in promoting lobbying activities, but is instead lagging behind.
He reminded us that we have been criticized by the anti-corruption body of the Council of Europe, which, according to him, highlights the challenges related to corruption with dense networks and conflicts of interest in our country . Maybe they are right?
The Labor Party, Center Party, Conservative Party, Progressive Party and Christian People’s Party should know their visiting times. Or do they have something to hide?
This is an opinion article and expresses the opinion of the author. Do you want to write in KOM24? Send your message to [email protected].
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