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Lobbying in Germany, like in many other parliamentary democracies, plays a significant role in the development of legislation. Lobbying has existed in Germany since a 1956, when the Federal Constitutional Court issued a ruling legalizing it. A mandatory lobby register was introduced in Germany effective 1 January 2022, along with a code of conduct.[1][2]

Background

Members of the Bundestag have a free and independent mandate guaranteed in §38 of the German Basic Law: they are able to vote according to their conscience at any time, even over the wishes of their party or voters. This mandate allows room for outside influence from special interest groups.

As early as 1956, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that lobbying was legal, stating that "there can be no doubt that extra-parliamentary actions of various kinds are conceivable which may serve to legitimately influence Parliament, especially insofar as they are intended to inform Members of Parliament of the opinions held by the electorate on certain political issues. In itself, therefore, there is no constitutional objection to 'interest groups' seeking to influence Members of Parliament; even mass actions by labor are not in principle impermissible."[3]

In 1994, Germany criminalized bribery of a member of parliament under §108(e) of the German Criminal Code. In 1972, the Bundestag made bribery a violation of its honor code, but this did not include criminal penalties.

Criticism

A frequent criticism of lobbying in Germany, particularly in the context of nuclear- and solar power,[4] biotechnology, copyright/file sharing, software patents or consumer protection laws, is that the interests of industry and large corporations are promoted through extensive lobbying work at the national or EU level to the detriment of smaller companies and the general public. This accusation has also been applied to environmental organizations, trade unions, social interest groups, and churches, all of which claim that their particular interests represent the public interest. In Germany, the pharmaceutical and energy industry are considered to have a particularly strong lobbying influence as well.[5]The former president of the Federal Constitutional Court Hans-Jürgen Papier warned that a level playing field does not exist between various special interest groups and that weaker interests are not taken into account.[6]

Raimund Kamm [de], former member of Alliance 90/The Greens, described the situation:

Sobald jemand zum Abgeordneten oder dann auch zum Minister gewählt wird, ändern sich fundamental seine Kommunikation und seine Gesprächspartner. Auch ‚Arbeitervertreter‘ oder Grüne werden dann von IHK, Unternehmern und anderen einseitig Interessierten eingeladen und hofiert. Ein immer größerer Teil der Gespräche von gewählten Politikern erfolgt mit professionellen Lobbyvertretern. Dies schmeichelt auch dem jungen, unerfahrenen Volksvertreter.

As soon as someone is elected as a member of parliament or as a minister, his communication and his interlocutors change fundamentally. Even 'labor representatives' or Greens are then invited and courted by a chamber of commerce and industry, entrepreneurs and other unilaterally interested parties. An increasingly large proportion of elected politicians' talks are with professional lobby representatives. This also flatters the young, inexperienced elected representative.

— Raimund Kamm[7]

Educational materials provided by lobbying groups to schools for economic education have also been criticized as "scientifically and politically tendentious".[8]

Lobbyliste

In 1972, the President of the Bundestag became responsible for maintaining the voluntary Public Listing of Lobby Groups and their Representatives [de], known as the "Lobbyliste". The number of entries has fluctuated: in June 2010, there were 2,136 groups registered; in July 2012, there were 2,079; in December 2014, 2,221.[9] Due to the list's voluntary membership and the narrow definition of "interest group", the list did not fully cover the spectrum of lobbying in Parliament. In the 16th session of the Bundestag (2005–2009), there were several parliamentary initiatives aimed at improving the transparency of lobbying in politics. In their 2009 party platforms, the SPD, Green Party, and Die Linke called for the establishment of a mandatory lobby register.[10] Of the 2,221 lobbyists on the list at the end of 2014, 575 had received an access badge to German parliamentary offices. More badges were also issued by parliamentary leaders to an unknown number of lobbyists in a process that had been kept secret.[9] In 2015, after legal proceedings, the Federal Government was forced to disclose the names of the lobbyists who had received access badges with the help of party factions: 1,111 representatives of interest groups, corporations, law firms, and other agencies were disclosed.[6] In February 2016, the Council of Elders of the Bundestag agreed to stop the issuance of access badges to lobbyists.[6] For perspective, In 2017, the number of lobbyists with a Bundestag access badge eclipsed the number of members of parliament who had one: there were 706 lobbyists with an access badge and only 630 members of parliament with one.[11]

According to a rough estimate, there are 5,000 lobbyists in Berlin, eight times the number of members of the Bundestag.[6] According to Bürgerbewegung Finanzwende [de], an organization calling for reforms of the financial services industry, the finance sector employs over 1,500 lobbyists with an annual budget of 200 million euros.[12] Former President of the Bundestag Norbert Lammert also warned of the sector's considerable and growing influence.[6]

Recent Developments

In 2006, a particular type of lobbyist (described by Hans Herbert von Arnim [de] as "in the orbit of corruption"[13]) came to light: external employees of federal ministries [de] who remained in the employ of the private sector, trade associations or interest groups.[13][14][15] In a statement, the Federal Government denied that these lobbyists exerted any political influence on the decision-making process.[16]

The energy sector, and in particular the four large German energy companies (RWE, E.ON, EnBW and Vattenfall), was initially forced to accept the 2000 agreement to phase out nuclear power.[17] After this agreement, the industry sought to use its lobby groups, such as Deutsches Atomforum [de] (DAtF) and the Kerntechnische Gesellschaft [de] (KTG), along with political allies, to revise the "nuclear consensus". The nuclear energy lobby sought to change public opinion in advance of the 2009 German Federal Election; in autumn of 2010, after an extensive media campaign, the Second Merkel Cabinet passed a phase-out extension to existing German nuclear plants.[18] Since March 2011, the nuclear lobby has sought to delay or reverse the second nuclear phase-out.

Reports in 2017 attributed both the Cum-Ex and Dieselgate scandals to the influence of lobbyists. Activists from LobbyControl [de] attributed the scandals to the Third Merkel cabinet's failure to implement binding rules on lobbyists.[19]

Following the insolvency of Wirecard in 2020, reports emerged that former high-ranking CDU politicians had engaged in lobbying work for the company, including the former Federal Minister of Defense, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg.[20]

A mandatory lobby register came into force in Germany on January 1, 2022, along with a code of conduct.[1] These were implemented by the Fourth Merkel Cabinet. The scope of the register and code of conduct were widely criticized as insufficient, both by the opposition parties and the Council of Europe's anti-corruption monitoring body.[2]

References

  1. ^ a b "Neue Ethikregeln: Kabinett beschließt Verhaltenskodex für Lobbyisten" [New Ethics Rules: Cabinet Passes Code of Conduct for Lobbyists]. spiegel.de (in German). 16 June 2021. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Europarat bemängelt Deutschlands Kampf gegen Korruption" [Council of Europe Criticizes Germany's Fight Against Corruption]. Die Zeit (in German). 10 May 2021. Retrieved 1 February 2022.
  3. ^ "Informationen zum Dokument BVerfGE 5, 85 - KPD-Verbot". 17 August 1956. Retrieved 1 February 2022. Es läßt sich nicht bezweifeln, daß außerparlamentarische Aktionen vielfältiger Art. denkbar sind, die einer legitimen Einwirkung auf das Parlament dienen können, vor allem soweit sie dazu bestimmt sind, die Abgeordneten über die bei den Wählern zu bestimmten politischen Fragen vorhandenen Meinungen zu unterrichten. An sich ist es daher verfassungsrechtlich nicht zu beanstanden, daß "Interessentengruppen" auf die Mitglieder des Parlaments einzuwirken suchen; auch Massenaktionen der Arbeiterschaft sind grundsätzlich nicht unzulässig.
  4. ^ Amann, Melanie (26 January 2010). "Die spektakulären Erfolge der Solar-Lobby" [The Spectacular Successes of the Solar Lobby]. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 1 February 2022.
  5. ^ Watts, Jonathan (11 November 2020). "Five post-Trump obstacles to a global green recovery". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e Balser, Markus; Ritzer, Uwe (29 February 2016). "Lobbyisten fliegen aus dem Bundestag - und bleiben genauso mächtig" [Lobbyists Banned from the Bundestag - and Remain just as Powerful]. Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). p. 17.
  7. ^ Kamm, Raimund (9 January 2017). "Deutsche Emissionen stiegen 2016". klimaretter.info. Retrieved 29 December 2020.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ Steffen, Tilman (11 May 2011). "Lobbyisten im Lehrerzimmer" [Lobbyists in the Teachers' Lounge]. Die Zeit (in German).
  9. ^ a b Denkler, Thorsten (27 January 2015). "So schützt der Bundestag Lobbyisten" [How the Bundestag Protects Lobbyists]. Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 1 February 2022.
  10. ^ Schmedes, Hans-Jörg (2009). "Mehr Transparenz wagen? Zur Diskussion um ein gesetzliches Lobbyregister beim Deutschen Bundestag". Zeitschrift für Parlamentsfragen. 40 (3): 543–560. doi:10.5771/0340-1758-2009-3-543.
  11. ^ Roßmann, Robert (8 June 2017). "Hausausweise: 706 Lobbyisten im Bundestag" [Access Badges: 706 Lobbyists in the Bundestag]. Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 1 February 2022.
  12. ^ Arlt, Sophia; Wolf, Marcus (2020). "Ungleiches Terrain - Eine Studie zu Größe und Einfluss der Finanzlobby in Deutschland" (PDF). Bürgerbewegung Finanzwende. Retrieved 25 June 2021.
  13. ^ a b "Bezahlte Lobbyisten in Bundesministerien: Wie die Regierung die Öffentlichkeit täuscht" [Paid Lobbyists in Federal Ministries: How the Government Deceives the Public]. Monitor Fernsehmagazin (in German). Westdeutscher Rundfunk. 15 December 2006.((cite news)): CS1 maint: url-status (link) Mirror on YouTube.
  14. ^ Krempl, Stefan (27 July 2007). "Datenbank gibt Aufschluss über Lobbyisten in Ministerien". heise online. Retrieved 1 February 2022.
  15. ^ Gathmann, Florian; Weisensee, Nils (26 July 2007). "Lobbyisten-Liste enthüllt Einfluss in Ministerien" [Lobbyist-List Reveals Influence in Ministries]. Spiegel Online (in German).
  16. ^ Antwort der Bundesregierung auf die Kleine Anfrage der Abgeordneten Volker Beck (Köln), Thea Dückert, Matthias Berninger , weiterer Abgeordneter und der Fraktion BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN (PDF). bundestag.de (Report). 4 December 2006. Retrieved 1 February 2022.
  17. ^ Schick, Nina (9 September 2015). "Zehn Jahre Atomausstieg – Meilenstein als Zerreißprobe". Focus Online.
  18. ^ "Die strahlenden Sieger der Atomlobby. Die Laufzeitverlängerung für Atomkraftwerke ist ein großer Erfolg für die Energiekonzerne. Jetzt wollen sich andere Branchen diese Lobbyarbeit zum Vorbild nehmen" [Radiating with Success: The Nuclear Lobby. The Lifetime Extension is an Enormous Success for the Energy Industry. Now other Sectors want to copy its model]. Die Zeit (in German). 7 September 2010.
  19. ^ Weigerle, Laura (21 June 2017). "Schwarz-Rot sieht rot" [Black-Red Sees Red]. Die Tageszeitung (in German).
  20. ^ Bartz, Tim; Böcking, David; Hesse, Martin; Traufetter, Gerald (28 January 2021). "Wie Guttenberg mit Wirecard um Millionen feilschte" [How Guttenberg Haggled with Wirecard for Millions]. Der Spiegel (in German). Retrieved 25 June 2021.