Transparency Blog: Lobbying needs to be regulated in Finland

If we compare with what happens in Latin America or southern European countries, we can see the influence of economic groups ( money and politics) in the decision making. Let’s not expect to react in Finland. It would be sad to react when we have a big scandal of illegal financing of politics or private pressures to make or modify a law that benefits corporate interests.”

Víctor Garrido Estrada[1]

Chilean living in Finland

vgarridoestrada@gmail.com

Recently, several books, academic articles and interviews reveal that Finland is not completely free of corruption[2]. On the contrary, the high score that the international indexes[3] usually assign as a country with low corruption rates. Also,

the results of the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index (Transparency International) were published in January 2020. Finland maintains its place in the ranking (3) also with respect to the previous year, it increases one point in its score (86) it continues in 2nd place in the EU, after Denmark[4].

I believe that this is a strength that Finnish society as a whole has acquired throughout its development in history.

But what do we mean when we say the word corruption? One of the most universal definitions of corruption is “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. This definition includes both direct and indirect corruption, small and large scale. Corruption can exist at both national and local levels. It can be an active or passive bribe. The United Nations Convention against Corruption also specifies the crimes of embezzlement, misappropriation, trading in influence, abuse of office and illicit enrichment.

I have been living in Finland since 2018 and I think the Finns are moderate and self-controlled. The common good prevails among the citizens. They set important limits on seeking private profit at the expense of others. In my opinion, I believe that a high level of education is a positive factor (it is a positive outcome), seen as a social phenomenon.

These personal values also serve to build trust between citizens and their institutions. Furthermore, research shows the correlation between the high degree of trust among members of a society and low levels of corruption[5].

In spite of this, Finland is now in debt, because over the last ten years it has lacked the firmness and speed to prevent bad practices from corrupting the political relations of its political system, and I believe that it is not very proactive in this area.

In the current context, transparency is positioned as a necessary prerequisite for acting in public affairs and probity as a guiding principle of all management and high-intensity democracies. In that sense, improving the standards with which the relations between the State and private bodies are developed, especially in the actions of senior public, regional, local and other authorities is a pending task.

TIMELINE OF LOBBYING REGULATIONS IN THE WORLD (OECD)

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/ENsBhdyUYAYwZZ5?format=png&name=small

Reference OECD; Retrieved from:  https://www.oecd.org/gov/ethics/oecdprinciplesfortransparencyandintegrityinlobbying.htm

For this reason, Finland needs a Lobbying Law, in which the various political authorities must make known their hearings or meetings, the trips they make and the donations they receive in the course of their duties, thus making visible all the efforts to influence the corporate sectors, including citizens, that try to influence a public decision and that involve the public and national budget.

Having modern and clear legislation increases the standards of accountability and transparency in the public sector and, as a result, the confidence of citizens[6].

Having a strong lobbying law has proven in international experiences to be an effective tool to combat undue pressure, detect acts of bribery and prevent influence peddling and revolving doors. Therefore, by making negotiations that represent the interests of different sectors visible and transparent, it benefits the real control of citizens and also benefits the health of democracy.

Finland and its citizens aim in the short term to advance an agenda of probity and transparency, as stipulated in the government programme of the current governing coalition led by Prime Minister Sanna Marin. In that document it says on page 214 “Measures will be taken to promote transparency in politics and to provide citizens with information at an earlier stage at both national and municipal level”. Also on page 91 “A law on a transparency register will be enacted based on parliamentary preparation and consultation with civil society. The aim of the law is to improve the transparency of decision-making and, through this, prevent inappropriate influences and strengthen public confidence”[7][8]

Building a culture of transparency is a process that takes time. Transparency and the fight against corruption are today an opportunity and all actors are increasingly aware of it. It is time to redouble efforts and promote the laws necessary to make the leap required to rebuild a new and strong trust between the population and the State.

Finally, for Finland, having a law on lobbying in the short term would give citizens and civil society organizations more tools for control and participation in public decisions in the future and also higher levels of trust towards the political class. As they say in the language of football “The ball is ready on the field, it’s time to start playing with it and play the game for transparency and win over the corrupt”.


[1] Political Scientist; any errors or omissions are my sole responsibility.

[2]  Salla Nazarenko & työryhmä (2019) Korruptio Suomessa and https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/europe_a_playground_for_special_interests_amid_lax_lobbying_rules

[3] Retrieved from: https://www.transparency.org/cpi2019

[4]Retrieved from: https://www.transparency.org/news/feature/cpi_2019_global_highlights

[5] Information available in: https://publications.iadb.org/en/report-expert-advisory-group-anti-corruption-transparency-and-integrity-latin-america-and-caribbean

[6] CLAPPING WITH ONE HAND Retrieved from: https://www.transparency.fi/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Clapping-with-one-hand-an-analysis-of-Finnish-lobbying-regulations.pdf ;

and http://www.lobbycontrol.de/2019/04/eu-lobbyreport-konzerne-haben-zu-viel-macht-in-europa-2/

[7] Programme of Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Government Retrieved from: https://julkaisut.valtioneuvosto.fi/handle/10024/161935

[8] Retrieved from: https://valtioneuvosto.fi/en/rinne/government-programme/strengthening-the-rule-of-law