Finland will be the first Nordic country to establish a statutory transparency register

High-quality legislative drafting must identify how the outcome will affect the people and sectors in the scope of the legislation. To ensure this, the drafting process must involve experts and interest representatives who are specialised in the subject matter.

In accordance with the Government Programme of Prime Minister Sanna Marin, Finland will be the first Nordic country to enact an act on a transparency register. The purpose of the act is to strengthen our open democracy by improving the transparency of decision-making.

The proposal for the act on the transparency register was up for comments until the end of January. The act obligates organisations and individuals engaged in lobbying activities to register in an electronic transparency register and to report on their lobbying activities twice a year. The plan is to launch the register in 2023.

The register will allow citizens, the media and the targets of lobbying to access information on lobbying activities. This will help evaluate the decision-making process and the underlying interests. By regularly publishing data on lobbying, we can also prove that it is an essential part of democracy.

Finnish lobbyists are willing to make their lobbying activities public. Finland does not need a transparency register to prevent any shady cabinet deals, but simply to make lobbying more open and easy to understand.

A few organisations already voluntarily report on their lobbying activities on their own websites. Finance Finland publishes annual reports of its lobbying activities, disclosing the political decision-makers we have lobbied in Helsinki and Brussels.

Finland does not need a transparency register

to prevent any shady cabinet deals,
but simply to make lobbying more open
and easy to understand.

Lobbyists include, for example, non-governmental organisations, social partners and the trade associations of different sectors. Grassroots civic engagement will fall outside the scope of the register.

Corporate lobbying is largely done through industrial associations, but companies also lobby legislation directly in issues closely related to their own business operations. The transparency act will apply to companies who are engaged in planned, long-term lobbying activities or consultation.

The act will therefore not have any effect on small entrepreneurs who want to contact a member of the parliament to discuss the impact of Covid restrictions on their business, for example. It will also exclude ordinary engagement with the authorities, participation in working groups or hearings organised by authorities, occasional and low-impact lobbying action, state ownership steering and party activity.

According to a recent study on the current state of lobbying in Finland, conducted at the University of Jyväskylä, lobbying is primarily targeted at members of the parliament and at government ministers. Another group often targeted by lobbying is key officials at ministries. Government agencies and public bodies, however, were less likely targets. The study supports the current proposal of the register initially only concerning the central government.

During the now closed period for submitting comments, the scope of application to receive the widest support was the parliament and the ministries. Many of the statements emphasised that if necessary, the scope can be extended to include government agencies at a later stage, once there is enough experience of how the register works and once the inclusion of local and regional government is evaluated during the monitoring of the act.

At this point it is wise to adopt a moderate model. The proposal must be further specified so that it sheds more light on lobbying focused at legislative drafting and the use of budgetary powers, but does not cover all possible dialogue between the decision-makers and interest representatives. The register must not create barriers for partnership between the public, private and third sectors.

Tuomo Yli-Huttula is the chair of the Edunvalvontafoorumi (a network of Finnish lobbyists) and the Director of Communications and Public Relations at Finance Finland, and was part of the Ministry of Justice working group tasked with preparing the transparency register.

Still have questions?


Contact FFI experts