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Regulating lobbying in Italy

Rome, 15/02/2018, Talk-debate

It was noted during this talk-debate session that there are signs of economic recovery in Italy, though the indicators are half those showing for Europe and even lower in proportion than those for Spain, a country which usually registers similar performance to Italy. The level of foreign investment remains very low, with the relationship between Italy and the United States, for instance, being very skewed. While the fact that the amount of Italian investment in the US has grown considerably was hailed as positive, it was acknowledged that the value of American investment in Italy continues to be much lower. All this was seen as hampering many opportunities for growth and as bearing witness to the persistence of great difficulties within the Italian economic system – a problem compounded by a series of social and institutional changes of no small account. Indeed, the traditional go-betweens – namely, those intermediary bodies that in the past ensured a bridge of communications between the political sphere, institutions, civil society, and the business community – have disappeared. In short, at a time of rapid and major change, the function performed by those that informed the political class of the expectations and demands of citizens and industry practically no longer exists.

The participants stressed that for a modern country committed to competing on the global stage, adopting effective lobbying mechanisms, already in place in many of Italy’s competitor countries, is therefore essential.

It was highlighted that many attempts have been made in Italy to introduce a comprehensive regulatory framework to govern the role of lobby groups, both as regards their dealings with the country’s constitutional institutions and with public authorities.

There were several points of agreement between those tasked with putting such regulations in place and those engaged in lobbying. First and foremost, it was viewed as necessary to establish professional credentials – such as instituting a special register – that would protect both lobbyists and those seeking to avail themselves of their services. It was highlighted that a failure to clearly define this professional role encourages misconduct and the persistence of negative perceptions of what is an entirely legitimate activity. Another point in common was that dealings with public officials should be marked by transparency, which for that matter has been facilitated by the tools that the technological revolution has made available. Lastly, there was agreement on the need for a single regulatory framework covering the various institutional and administrative levels and which also takes into account EU legal requirements.