Lobbyists Oppose Lobbying Law - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Lobbyists Oppose Lobbying Law

Published July 30, 2019

Iceland’s biggest lobbyists, SA—The Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise—has delivered a statement on a European anti-corruption law. Due to be implemented soon, it would require that lobbyists be registered, and a time limit would be set that would create a holding period during which former officials and high level government workers couldn’t work for interest groups.

The statement claims that lobbyism does not create the same danger of conflicts of interests here in Iceland as it does in larger societies.

The law is being written as a response to a request from GRECO – Group Of States Against Corruption, an independent European body connected to the Council Of Europe.

The statement also claims that, in Iceland, corruption is not caused by special interests gaining a firm hold on government, and influencing officials’ reactions to government decisions, as the GRECO report claims.

Most corrupt Nordic country

According to a Kjarninn report last January, Iceland is the most corrupt of the Nordic countries. In 2006, we were thought to be the least corrupt country in the world, but since then we’ve dropped down 14 places, coinciding with the economic collapse and the general lack of accountability that followed.

A survey quoted in the Kjarninn piece found that two out of three Icelanders believe that most or all politicians in the country are corrupt.

Tenets of an uncorrupt society

The rationale against the GRECO laws that SA put forth are, among others, that the bounds and registries on lobbyists and politicians are not needed, and that the registries are unnecessary. In most cases, say the objectors, it’s obvious who each group or employee serves: “whether it be an organisation of companies, workers, environmentalists, or other”.

According to the Transparency International report in Kjarninn, one of the tenets of an uncorrupt society is access to information, which makes it possible for individuals and organisations to monitor possibly corruption and bring offenders to justice.

The leaders of the SA—and it’s predecessor organisations—have often gone on to government leadership positions, primarily through the Independence party.

The enterprise lobbyists at SA also touted the positive aspects of the governement and SA having a revolving door of workers. They claimed that the laws would damage society, and that the burden of monitoring it could hinder economic growth.

The experts we reached out to to ask if “the hindering of economic growth” is the pro-business crowd’s version of a Hitler analogy all declined to answer.

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