The European Commission has published the much-awaited ‘Defence of Democracy Package‘ at a pivotal moment as the EU takes substantial strides toward reinforcing its democratic foundations. This package includes a peculiar proposal for a directive mandating the reporting of 3rd country lobbying. Paradoxically, foreign lobbying may be subject to more stringent regulations than internal lobbying within the EU.

On November 27, 2023, The Good Lobby, in collaboration with Civil Society Europe (CSE), European Partnership for Democracy (EPD), and Transparency International EU, held a press conference aimed at addressing the EU’s Defence of Democracy Package. This collaborative effort sought to present the state of play regarding the Proposal for a Directive on Transparency of Interest Representation on behalf of Third Countries, which has now been published and contemplated its potential effects and proposes tangible alternatives.

To delve into the intricacies of this legislative proposal, The Good Lobby suggests examining this new text in the light of its own study  –  a study entitled “How to Evaluate a Foreign Influence Legislation? A Comparative Analysis,” -. Authored by Professor Alberto Alemanno and Felix Sames, this study systematically dissects foreign influence legislation across OECD countries, offering critical insights that prove particularly relevant in the context of the EU’s recent endeavours.

Understanding the Landscape

The Good Lobby’s study brings clarity to the shadowy world of foreign influence legislation, exploring past, present, and proposed laws through a comparative analysis. Concentrating solely on laws specific to foreign influence and excluding general transparency legislation, the study highlights major issues associated with such legislations. These issues range from vague language to unpredictable enforcement and negative democratic implications, including restrictions on fundamental rights such as freedom of assembly and expression, as well as the stigmatisation of legitimate civil society actors funded from abroad. The study concludes with a checklist of key considerations to guide the critical evaluation of future EU legislation and other foreign influence laws globally.

As the EU navigates the path to fortify democratic principles, thoughtful consideration and a comprehensive understanding of foreign influence legislation are essential. The EU’s Defence of Democracy Package unfolds against the backdrop of a complex global landscape. The insights garnered from The Good Lobby’s study provide a valuable lens through which we can critically evaluate the proposed measures. The full study is accessible here.

A Checklist for Evaluation

The checklist offers ten considerations for evaluating foreign influence legislation:

  • Objective: Clarify the declared aim of the law—is it about ‘foreign interference’ or ‘foreign influence’?
  • Scope: Define to whom the law applies and how actors and activities are identified.
  • Targeted Party: Identify if the legislation exclusively applies to certain entities or activities and if it pinpoints sources of international funding.
  • Exemptions: Evaluate if the law offers exclusions for certain actors or activities, and if these are clearly defined.
  • Conflict of Law: Analyse how the legislation interacts with existing transparency laws in the same country.
  • Proportionality: Assess if the legislation effectively balances transparency with the protection of civil liberties.
  • Enforcement: Scrutinise the precision of the language for predictable enforcement and the presence of deterrent sanctions.
  • Due Process: Ensure the law allows for the possibility to appeal any sanctions.
  • Targeted Enforcement: Evaluate if the legislation risks stigmatising specific groups or creating uneven enforcement.
  • Socio-economic Impact: Consider the potential social and economic costs of compliance.

We encourage you to examine the proposal of the EU Commission against this check-list and let us know your own assessment of the proposed directive.

We intend to do the same and share our analysis with you in the coming days.