Public integrity represents an increasingly visible and relevant aspect in the functioning of European Union institutions. Both the European Commission and the European Parliament have introduced measures addressing the behavioural standards of their members, often in the aftermath of damaging scandals. We analyse the ethics regulations for political actors in these two institutions (i.e., Commissioners and MEPs), focusing on the inter-related issues of conflict of interests and relations with lobbyists. We take a comparative perspective that highlights the difference in regulatory approaches between the two, which is puzzling as the ethical issues that confront Commissioners and MEPs are largely the same. Based on detailed legal analysis and expert interviews, the paper maps and explains the divergence and identifies opportunities for harmonizing rules across institutions.
The Nordic countries are known as frontrunners of transparency, and the EU’s transparency regime owes many of its ideals to Northern influences. Nonetheless, although perceived as a transparency-enhancing measure, none of them has adopted lobbying regulation. Assessing the Nordic parliamentary and governmental debates from the 1980s onwards, this article analyses a complex relationship between legislative transparency and regulation in the five countries. In Sweden, Denmark and Norway, lobbying regulation aims to enhance transparency about lawmakers’ activities, while the Icelandic and Finnish debates consider regulation as a way to increase information about the role lobbyists play in law-making. Although all Nordic countries exhibit varying degrees of a small country mentality where regulation would interfere with ‘informal governance’, the difference in transparency emphases is crucial.
In Switzerland, public trust in State institutions is relatively high. This confidence can partly be explained by a range of deep-rooted traditions and institutional mechanisms, such as the so-called militia system, federalism, consensus democracy, and direct democracy. Yet in 2019, several political institutions scored relatively low in terms of public trust; some lost nearly one quarter of the confidence points they had earned in previous years. In parallel, a number of regulatory proposals are currently pending at the federal level focussed on campaign finance and of parliamentary lobbying. In this paper, my goal is to critically evaluate these and other existing regulatory measures from the perspective of public trust in democratic lawmaking processes. I argue that Swiss lobby regulation almost exclusively focuses on transparency, to the detriment of other regulatory goals that are equally important from the perspective of public trust in democratic processes.