Transparency Register Established in Finland: Lobbying Data Becomes Public

Corporate Advisory & Sustainability

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29 Jun


Dittmar & Indrenius > Insight > Transparency Register Established in Finland: Lobbying Data Becomes Public

Gathering views from various stakeholders is an essential element of legislative processes. Influencing activities directed at law-making take place through both official and unofficial channels, and now transparency will be introduced also to unofficial influencing. The new Finnish Transparency Register Act has been ratified, and registration obligations on lobbyists and consultancy on lobbying begin in 2024.

Lobbying produces proficient and diverse information for decision-makers and improves preparation of decisions – even though the term also bears negative implications. Lobbying may be defined as an effort to influence public decision-making, preparation or enforcement in order to promote a certain goal or target either directly or indirectly.

Transparency and openness in Finnish law-drafting processes has improved over the last decade. Detailed information on legislative projects is published already in early stages of the reforms. In addition, written statements and comments of stakeholders submitted to the Parliament or ministries are comprehensively available on the internet, and therefore the need for separate information requests from the authorities has decreased.

The new legislation does not bring changes to so-called official participation in law-drafting. Participation in consultations during parliamentary proceedings, requests for comment of the ministries, or working groups appointed by an authority do not trigger registration obligations. Transparency is in these cases ensured by publication duties of the authorities.

Lobbying not restricted, but transparency is improved

The purpose of the new Transparency Register is not to restrict or prohibit lobbying but to improve the transparency of decision-making and to encourage compliance with good lobbying and hearing practices, as influencing activities take place also through unofficial channels. Any representation of interests, i.e. lobbying that targets the Parliament or the ministries, will be entered in the register as well as information on lobbying consultancy. The new legislation therefore expands the principle of publicity to apply also to different informal relations.

Legislation on lobbying has been prepared in Finland since 2020, and the new Transparency Register Act was ratified in March 2023. The Act will enter into force on 1 January 2024. The Transparency Register of the European Union was established in 2011 and it became mandatory in 2021. The EU Transparency Register concerns activities aiming to influence the EU policy and decision-making processes, whereas the new national register is applied to influencing targeted to the Finnish Parliament and ministries.

The registration obligation concerns companies, organisations and other legal persons that engage in systematic influencing activities or its consultancy. The obligation to provide information is only established if the party being influenced by lobbying is Finland’s Parliament or ministry. For example, lobbying that aims to influence municipal decision-makers or government agencies will not be registered in the Transparency Register.

Relevant activities that must be registered in the Transparency Register are:

  • Contact with the Parliament or ministry aiming to influence that authority’s preparation and decision-making by promoting a certain interest or other objective;
  • Consultancy on lobbying, where influencing of interests is carried out on behalf of a client or the client is provided other support for lobbying; and
  • PR activities by parties engaged in consultancy on lobbying.

“Stakeholder consultation is an integral part of all legislative processes: it produces relevant information used in law-drafting. Hearing experts, organisations, and other interested parties is necessary, as legislation does not come into existence in a void.”

Small-scale lobbying not included in the scope

Information that does not need to be submitted to the Transparency Register includes, inter alia, small-scale lobbying, public appearances at public meetings and events, mass media and sending newsletters, normal use of services with authorities and participation in consultation and in a working group appointed by an authority. Small-scale lobbying is defined as an activity where a lobbyist is in contact with parties they are making an effort to influence no more than five times during a calendar year.

Primarily, therefore, the registration obligation concerns legal persons who regularly engage in lobbying and its consultancy, such as large companies, large NGOs and labour market organisations. Companies that may conduct occasional lobbying activities falling within the scope of the new Act should nevertheless be aware of the registration obligation: if during a given calendar year the number of activities exceeds five occasions, the registration obligation will be triggered. Compliance with the new Act may require establishing an internal process to keep records on relevant influencing activities covering the whole company – as well as raising awareness of the new rules amongst the personnel.

New provisions also affect the legal industry, as law firms may provide lobbying consultation to their clients or conduct influencing activities on behalf of them. Such activities may fall within the scope of the Transparency Register Act, but there are separate provisions safeguarding attorney-client privilege in the Act.

The registration obligation is intended to relate to the societal level of consultancy or influencing, whereas legal advisory regarding the client itself and the client’s activities is considered privileged and therefore not subject to notification obligations. An activity not falling within the scope of the notification obligation would therefore be advising the client on how the legislative amendments in preparation would affect the client’s business. On the other hand, if the consultancy would entail arguments on how to influence to the legislative amendments under preparation, a notification obligation would exist.

Contents of the notifications: Activities and financial information

The contents of the notifications are defined in the Act. The legal person or private business operator obligated to register must submit a registration notification containing basic information of itself. Separate operating notifications must be submitted twice a year. Information on lobbying activities must contain the party who is being influenced by lobbying, the topics concerning which they were contacted, and the primary methods for maintaining contact. As regards lobbying consultancy, the operators must submit details on the client including contact information, information on who and what they focus their lobbying activities on and information on the type of support provided to the client. Operators are also required to submit financial information, such as costs or turnover relating to lobbying, once a year.

The Transparency Register is a public web service. The information recorded in the register is available in the web service to the public for a period of ten years, and anyone can view it. The National Audit Office is responsible for overseeing notifications registered to the Transparency Register and the supervision of the obligation to provide information, and it may also impose conditional fines.

Transparency Register: Guide (Ministry of Justice, Reports and guidelines 2023:17)

The registration obligation covers activities targeted to

The Finnish Parliament, namely:

  • Members of Parliament
  • Assistants to Members of Parliament
  • Staff of parliamentary groups
  • Parliamentary officials

Finnish ministries, namely:

  • Ministers
  • the State Secretaries appointed for the Minister’s term
  • Special Advisers to the Ministers
  • Officials employed by ministries
  • Rapporteurs appointed by the ministries

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