Intended regulation of lobbying in the Czech Republic

There is currently no legal regulation of lobbying in the Czech Republic, which is not an exception in the European context. According to the latest data, only about a quarter of European Union countries regulate lobbying at the statutory level. However, it should be pointed out that in the Czech Republic, lobbying is neither so-called self-regulated, for example, by associations of lobbyists or entities representing interest groups, nor, for example, is there a code of ethics for lobbying by Members of Parliament, which is far from common.

The bill on lobbying currently being discussed by the Government is by no means the first attempt to regulate lobbying in the Czech Republic. The first attempts date back to 2009, and although much of the legislation on lobbying proposed by the government and MPs contained essentially identical provisions, the individual proposals ended up in completely different ways, ranging from being returned for refinement at first reading, to being suspended at third reading, to being rejected by the Senate. 

The current proposed legislation on lobbying is based on the principles of the legal intention on lobbying approved by the Government. Key among these principles is the approach to lobbying or interest promotion as a completely legitimate part of democratic processes. According to the aforementioned legal intention, lobbying is particularly important in terms of information exchange, as it provides decision-makers with data and insight, while at the same time allowing interest groups and lobbyists access to policy-making and implementation.

However, the legislation must also take into account the third party, namely the public, which can be significantly affected by the results of lobbying activities and should therefore be informed about them. In addition to transparency and public information, one of the objectives of the proposed legislation is to increase public confidence in public officials. Contacts between public officials and private entities outside the standard processes provided for by law (e.g. public discussions or comment procedures) often raise legitimate doubts among the public about the way public functions are carried out. A further objective is to eliminate certain undesirable phenomena that may be associated with lobbying today, such as corruption, conflicts of interest and clientelism. 

The Government's current bill on lobbying defines lobbying as an activity aimed at directly influencing the actions of the person being lobbied in cases defined by law, typically the drafting, negotiation or approval of legislation. Other new and important terms are lobbyist and lobbied. A lobbyist is briefly defined as a person who lobbies on a regular basis. A lobbyist is then anyone who is defined exhaustively in the Lobbying Act. It is worth noting here that it is this part of the bill that is currently causing the most controversy, in particular the absence of the President of the Republic and the assistants of MPs and senators among the lobbyists. 

According to the proposal, a 'lobbying register' should also be created with the possibility of public viewing. The lobbying register should include data on lobbyists' contacts with the lobbied, through a lobbyist's declaration, at a maximum frequency of six months. According to the bill, another transparency tool should be the obligation of the lobbyist to ensure that the explanatory memorandum of the bill, the reasons for an amendment or the record of a committee meeting include information on any lobbying.