KDI conference, December 5, 2023. Photo: BIRN/Emirjeta Vllahiu

Kosovo Civil Society Advocates Legal Framework for Lobbying

Civil society in Kosovo called for the drafting of a law on lobbying activities, but the Assembly of Kosovo is not expected to have such an initiative during 2024.

The Kosova Democratic Institute, KDI, held a conference on Tuesday titled “Has the time come for the Law on Lobbying?,” emphasizing the importance of legislation in the field of lobbying.

Many MPs that participated in the event, described the process of preparing a law on lobbying as complex, and a call was made for political consensus on this issue. The start of the process was deemed unlikely to happen next year, despite the fact that European Union has provided support with its expertise for the drafting of the law.

The project manager at KDI, Plator Avdiu, stated that lobbying is not only related to the diplomatic aspect and the recognition of citizenship, adding that “this is only one of the narrow meanings of lobbying.”

“In principle, lobbying is defined as a set of communications that different interest groups exercise towards public officials, of different levels, for certain purposes, and this is done by actors that are called non-state and non-institutional,” he said.

Interest groups, according to him, include consultants, legal offices, lobbyists, unions, NGOs, and non-state institutions that try to influence decision-making in different ways.

According to him, the Assembly of Kosovo has decided as one of its priorities the legal regulation of lobbying through the Action Plan for the Open Assembly.

“In a way, it has perhaps for the first time initiated this issue to take a direction towards its regulation.”

The Action Plan for the Open Assembly 2023-2026 was launched on December 14, 2022, and aims at transparency and increasing public trust in the Assembly of Kosovo.

Jarmo Helppikangas, head of the rule of law and legal section from the Office of the EU Special Representative in Kosovo, said that a law on lobbying is an initiative that should be taken in Kosovo.

“Now is the right moment to regulate this in Kosovo through the law. Lobbying is a completely legitimate activity. Institutions must maintain a transparent dialogue with civil society associations; it is an obligation of the EU. Part of this transparency would have to be a lobbyist list, where lobbyists would be registered,” he said.

According to him, lobbying is common in systems based on democracy and joint decision-making.

“We can make proposals and support it as an initiative. If there is a need for any support, we are at your disposal,” he added.

The head of the Parliamentary Group of the ruling party – Lëvizja Vetëvendosje, Mimoza Kusari – Lila said that the process for drafting a law on lobbying is complex.

“What I am presenting as a representative of the majority in the Assembly is that we think it is a very complex process also due to the fact that today legal initiatives are over 90 percent from the Government,” she said.

Kusari-Lila said that she cannot promise when this legal initiative can start.

“I cannot guarantee; it will be difficult to say that within the next year 2024, we can have a draft law or even approval of the law on lobbying.”

“We can agree to have criteria for the registry of lobbyists, what should be included and what draft law would work for Kosovo, and of course, have within the Assembly some strictly regulated processes,” she added.

Meanwhile, the opposition MP from the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK Blerta Deliu-Kodra said that Kosovo faces corruption.

“The main challenge for Kosovo remains corruption. This increases the need to dynamize and formalize the issue of lobbying. I appreciate the fact that we are talking about this and I understand that it is not easy to start. We must see it together with civil society and as the Assembly deals with this initiative,” she said.

The MP from the other opposition party, Alliance for the Future of Kosovo, AAK, Time Kadriaj added that for lobbying, a law that adapts to the circumstances in Kosovo is needed.

Kadriaj added that her party will support the legal initiative for lobbying.

“Experts should be engaged to make a good and applicable law. We need expertise, and it is good to start with experts, and normally a political consensus is needed for this initiative to be addressed and approved,” she said.

The senior policy officer at Transparency International EU, Raphaël Kergueno, spoke about the best practices around lobbying.

“The process must be done in a transparent and ethical manner. This is a definition that includes all the actors involved as well as their activities. The biggest debate occurs in the definition because some organizations may not want to be part of it, so the definition should be as inclusive as possible,” he emphasized.

05/12/2023 - 15:38

05 December 2023 - 15:38

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.