For years, the word lobbying has usually been accompanied by a negative sign, meaning interest groups that by fraudulent means and bribes put negative pressure on decision-makers to serve personal interests. One could argue that this view has unfortunately been consolidated and dominated public opinion in Cyprus as well, thus undermining what the correct and positive use of lobbying can offer to governance. Based on this, we welcome the decision of the Parliament to vote in favour of the law for the regulation of lobbying on February 17, 2022 in Cyprus with the main motivation being the need for transparency in the contacts of persons interested in getting involved in the decision-making process. This development is an important and essential step towards a more participatory and transparent policy production process in Cyprus that can, consequently, bridge the gap between the Cypriot citizen and decision-makers.
It is imperative that the citizen is aware of the content of this new bill, as its consolidation and success depends to a large extent on the participation of the Cypriot people. Thus, the bill on lobbying provides that all meetings between state officials and lobbyists are published along with the content of what was discussed and information about possible funding. On the other hand, state officials should also keep records of their meetings with lobbyists. If lobbyists do not comply with this requirement or file reports without basic details, then they will be subject to fines while there will be the possibility of serving a prison sentence. Similarly, state officials should also be honest in their reports, and if they do not, then they will be subject to the same consequences. In addition, according to the bill, trade unions and NGOs will also be considered lobbyists and will therefore have to comply with the same rules. Lobbyists will also have the opportunity to be informed by state officials about the areas of interest to them and will have the opportunity to participate in consultations on these areas.
With the official establishment of the Anti-Corruption Authority which will be responsible for supervising those subject to this law, we have passed to the stage of its implementation. The authority will also be responsible for issuing a Code of Conduct and circulars to determine the framework in which stakeholders will act. The next step for the implementation of the bill will be, within the next period of time, the creation of a lobbying register in which the participation of all lobbyists will be mandatory. Therefore, state officials will have the right to consult only with people who are registered in that register. This regulation is not a restriction but a further strengthening of transparency and the fight against corruption as it further establishes the binding nature of the bill and its importance.
Finally, it is remarkable and promising that the bill, which is due to enter into force within the next year in Cyprus, seems to have taken into account all the suggestions of the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO), which indicates the strong desire on the part of the Republic of Cyprus to positively change the way in which the lobby is carried out in Cyprus and by extension public opinion on it. The bill incorporates a variety of restrictions and requirements which ensures that its implementation will meet its expectations. We are optimistic that this development will bring about the individual and collective participation needed for the bill to be established as an integral part of political culture.
Dr. Nicolas Kyriakides, Co-founder of Zenox Public Affairs, Member of the Board of Directors of Cyprus Lobbyists and Public Affairs Professionals