October 19, 2020

The Junta de Castilla y León leaves the regulation of lobbies outside the Transparency law


The Junta de Castilla y León leaves the lobby outside the Transparency law that this legislature plans to approve. Pressure groups, which are beginning to be regulated in autonomous regions such as Asturias, Catalonia or Madrid, are not currently regulated in Castilla y León. Neither are they, nor will they be in the short term, according to the estimates of the regional government, since they plan to address this issue “comprehensively” in a specific regulation.

The draft Transparency Law of Castilla y León provides for fines of up to 12,000 euros

The draft Transparency Law of Castilla y León provides for fines of up to 12,000 euros

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This is how he explains it in his explanatory memorandum: “The law does not address aspects related to citizen participation or lobby regulation with which transparency has an obvious and close relationship. The reason is none other than the purpose of addressing this matter in a specific initiative that fully contemplates the participation of society in the management of public affairs “.

In 2013, the government of Mariano Rajoy drew up the first Transparency law, based on which the autonomies could expand the regulation. In 2015, the Junta de Castilla y León drew up a norm with “deficits”, so the Ministry of Transparency, in the hands of Francisco Igea (Cs), intends to initiate “a true autonomic policy of transparency” and “better access ” at the information.

“In Spain, progress has been made in terms of transparency with Law 19/2013 but it is incomprehensible that a regulation has not been put in place on the lobbies. Informal and opaque lobbying rules, “laments the former deputy for Esquerra and Doctor of Law Joan Ridao.

“He draft bill of Transparency law of Castilla y LeónAlthough I have not studied it in depth, it is quite advanced, “says María Díez, a researcher in Transparency at the University of Valladolid, who does consider that these pressure groups should be regulated by transparency.

Sources from the Ministry of Transparency report that the processing of observations from the ministries has already ended, although the reports from the Legal Services of the Ministry, the General Directorate of Budgets and Statistics and the Advisory Council are still pending. Then the project will be sent to the Cortes of Castilla y León.

The Junta de Castilla y León is also working on a draft legislative footprint to publish all the documents in the file in each regulation. Although it is not yet known how it will be applied, the objective of the regulatory footprint is to analyze how a legal text has evolved throughout all its months of processing.

Senior management agendas

For now, in Castilla y León the 2015 regulations are maintained, the one in which the current regional government (PP-Cs) recognizes “deficits”. In other words, the Board must submit to citizen participation (individual and collective) the draft laws, the draft decree, the strategies, plans and programs. Once the allegations are received, the Board must justify the total or partial rejection of the contributions.

The current law of Castilla y León barely touches on this issue that affects the participation of organizations, companies and groups of all kinds. There is no record, nor is there a fingerprint that allows knowing the outcome of the meetings. The closest thing that Castilla y León has is the publication of the agendas of senior officials: Meetings, events and meetings – face-to-face and remotely – that all the senior members of the Board maintain in the performance of their functions, as well as the presidents, CEOs, general directors, managers or similar entities of public companies or public foundations.

The problem that public office agendas often present is that they remain “superficial”, explains Antonio Castillo, co-coordinator of a national research group on lobbying, to elDiario.es. This professor at the University of Malaga assures that these agendas do not check whether they have finally met or not and what matter is really being discussed.

“I can say that I meet with the hunters, but in reality the terms of the meeting are more complicated,” he exemplifies. “By institutionalizing these interest groups, which already exist, you can make everything more transparent, because one of the reproaches that is made to lobbies is that they act in the shadows,” he continues.

Castillo insists on the importance of “monitoring” public agendas to know with whom, for what, what issues have been addressed, whether documentation has been delivered or received and what proposals are on the table. ”

On this issue there is disparity of opinions. “We confuse three levels of public information: secret, confidential and transparent. You have to be careful about asking for transparency, because for some things you have to transmit trust. Negotiations should be secret, but traceability, public”, adds Juan Luis Manfredi, from the University of Castilla-La Mancha. “I want to see the evaluation and see the results that this call from Telefónica to the Minister has produced, for example,” he adds.

Lobby records

“There has to be a record that people can consult, it would be a great step,” says Díez, who believes that “it does not have to be bad” a dialogue between the private interest of associations or companies with the public power. For this doctor, it is “relatively easy” to publish the minutes of the meetings “even in summary form” in this digital world. “Do not think that this does not interest the public,” he remarks.

The European Commission does have a register of these interest groups (pressure groups or lobbies), among which there are eight specifically from Castilla y León, including the AB Azucarera Iberia company, the Asaja agrarian association and the Castilla y León mining research and exploitation society (Siemcalsa). This registration is mandatory for these groups to meet with representatives of the European Commission. In Spain there is only one registry, that of the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC): this is a voluntary registry that groups companies, NGOs and corporations under public law.

Ridao believes that a “mandatory registration” of these interest groups should be imposed. “At the institutional level of the EU there is a voluntary registry and this makes it possible to mask real lobbying. Also regulation in the executive and legislative sphere, and in the case of the local world under the auspices of the community,” he says.

There is no consensus on this issue either, because the records can be used to make it difficult for citizens to access, depending on the requirements they request. In some cases, only a name is necessary, but you can request, for example, a document proving that it is a solvent association, when it can be an association of fathers and mothers without financial management. Manfredi argues that these records “are of no use” if they are not accompanied by traceability to know the effect that these meetings have.

The legislative footprint

These interest groups play “an important role” in the elaboration of the laws, defends Francisco Javier Paniagua, doctor in Information Sciences. These organizations and companies, which may have social or economic interests, “have a lot to say and contribute.” But the key is that everything is with light and stenographers.

For that there is the legislative footprint: public proof of the influence that lobbies exert on a legal text. “The idea is to see how a law begins and how and where it changes,” says Castillo. That is, see what effects a meeting with an association or a company has, such as a change in the body of the text once a draft is published. “Although I if I were a good lobby, I would have met before the draft was prepared and afterwards also, in commissions, for example,” he adds.

“Transparency does not mean that those who control more or have more power do not continue to influence, but unless it is known who has access to high positions,” says Castillo. “The outcome of the meetings and the accountability have to be transparent,” adds Manfredi.

“If after meeting you change the draft, that is what I want to see. That makes it possible to evaluate which groups have the capacity to influence,” says Manfredi, who is committed to having institutional memory and evaluation of public policies. This level of transparency does not currently exist in Spain. “During the deliberations it is not good that there is transparency, but afterwards there is, in addition to the importance of the evaluation of public policies,” he defends.

Rafael Rubio, professor of Constitutional Law at the Complutense University of Madrid, is committed to “knowing the iter of any public decision from the beginning of its elaboration, as well as the different changes that have been introduced at the proposal of those affected, interested parties and experts, with the in order to provide greater transparency to the entire process and allow citizens to know how a regulation has evolved and in what sense “. “This footprint would incorporate not only a list of the actors who have intervened, but also the moment in which they have intervened and the information provided by any means during the process” reflects Rubio in his article ‘The activity of pressure groups before the executive power’

Lobbies and political parties

“One of the weaknesses of the democratic model is that the parliamentarians are quite naked in front of the lobbies,” explains Manfredi, director of the research group Public Communication: Power, Law and Message, which proposes that the Cortes of Castilla y León – and other parliamentary chambers – have technicians who can prepare their own reports. “They have very little information on the issues that are going to be legislated, there is no study service of their own that can help them draw up the rules,” he laments. Manfredi exemplifies this situation: If he proposes to privatize the Healthcare, for example, they will have to know what impact this decision will have, how much it will cost … Or if it is the new law on hunting or bullfighting, bet that they are not the associations those that present their own studies to politicians, but the Cortes have a service that prepares independent studies.

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