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Powerhouse creates Estonia’s first lobby registry

Estonia’s first lobby registry has been created. Those from the public sector – both politicians and officials – who add their names to the registry gain the right to communicate with the private sector. Registration is necessary because otherwise the private sector may make decisions that are based on broader benefit or, worse, the goal to raise the rate of income tax. Such a situation could lead to confusion and loss of control among decision-makers and raise the question of where potential additional tax revenue should be directed. As such, the registry’s creators feel that the only appropriate way of restricting the communication of state representatives is via a registry.

The need to create a lobby registry has been debated in Estonia for many years, but as legislators have not acted, Powerhouse decided to create such a registry itself.

“When I served as the Minister of Justice, I decided I’d be the first to take the private sector’s initiative seriously,” explained Reform Party MP Kristen Michal. “I’m really glad the registry’s given me the right to communicate with the private sector officially, without it being frowned upon. Estonia’s all bound up in one, and we can’t go building a wall between our private and public sectors. For me there’s just one Estonia, and I aim to continue being an honest and enthusiastic partner to the private sector.”

“The lobby registry’s open to any and all officials and representatives of governing bodies who want to keep up to date on the latest trends and what’s happening in real life in different fields,” explained Marko Pomerants, who has been working with Powerhouse. “The state feels the registry should be open to lawyers, PR specialists and consultants, but the scope can and should be much wider than that. Officials and legislators who want the latest information and to know what real life’s actually like should get on board, too.”

“Back in the ’90s, PR was considered a social vice here in Estonia, criminal even, which is how lobbying is viewed today,” said Andres Anvelt, who has also been working with Powerhouse. “Then came a period when every misfire was blamed on failures in communication, or not enough of it. What was being done might have been good, but no one knew how to get that across to people. Lobbying finds itself in the same situation these days – no one really understands what it is, so they vilify it every which way. Which isn’t what we should be doing: we need to do good work and get involved in the registry. No one can live without lobbying. Even little kids lobby for what they want at Christmas.”

“I wanted to be the first to add my name to the registry but Kristen Michal beat me to it!” remarked Powerhouse Creative Director Janek Mäggi. “Honesty’s the most important ethical criterion in the private sector, followed by transparency. We want to offer all of our politicians and officials the chance to see what life’s really like in Estonia and to do so honestly and transparently. Anyone who doesn’t add their name to the lobby registry could very well find it added to the criminal records database at some point.”

The registry is not the only innovation in the field of regulation: a register is currently being created of parents who want to communicate with their children but who failed to take the opportunity to do so provided by the coronavirus pandemic. A brief has also been drawn up for a register of donators to be launched in 2021, which is designed to ensure that no donation is made on the spur of the moment.