Draft Law “On Integrity in Lobbying” in its current edition can be used to curtail freedom and democracy in Ukraine
On January 10, 2023, the Verkhovna Rada adopted in the first reading the government Draft Law “On Integrity in Lobbying” No. 10337. The European Commission has identified the adoption of the law on lobbying as one of the prerequisites for the start of negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the EU. However, as introduced by the government, this Draft Law is literally drifting us away from European values and directly threatens freedom, democracy, and the performance of constitutional rights in Ukraine.
In the wording of the first reading, this Draft Law will not only fail to reduce oligarchic and unscrupulous influences on decision-making by the authorities but will also enhance the lack of transparency of the government, allowing the state to put pressure on any “inconvenient” citizens or civil society organizations that will criticize the government, demand reforms or changes in public policy.
Such citizens or organizations will be obliged to register as “lobbyists” under threat of fines, just like “foreign agents” in Putin’s Russia. In other words, a system of total pressure from the authorities on civil society will be created. People will be prosecuted for “illegal lobbying” for participating in a round table, suggesting amendments to the legislation, public expert analysis, or meeting with an official.
All key amendments on behalf of the NGO representatives participating in the working group on the preparation of the Draft Law for the second reading established by the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Policy have been ignored. The current finalized version of Draft Law will continue to allow prosecution of citizens or civil society organizations for criticism or amendments to the legislation under the pretext of defending their “commercial interests”. The latter are vaguely worded — any donation to support an organization for advocating anti-corruption, political, or other reforms might be considered as creating the “commercial interest”.
There is every reason to believe that the Committee and the Parliament are preparing to adopt Draft Law No. 10337 in the wording that would allow the authorities to consider any active citizens and civil society organizations as lobbyists, demand accountability for every single meeting, call, press conference and other “lobbying” activities, fine them and publicly discredit them in the eyes of the society. That is, it is not the citizens that will control the government, but it will be the government that will control the citizens and punish them for their activity.
In the current Ukrainian context, constitutional rights are already limited under Martial Law, the authorities work in a non-transparent manner, and civic activists, journalists, and entrepreneurs are increasingly subjected to harassment and intimidation in connection with their professional activities, such a law will pave the way to authoritarianism.
Therefore, this Draft Law requires serious — rather than cosmetic — changes, which should be accepted not only by the European Union and the Ukrainian authorities, but also by Ukrainian society.
Without such systemic changes, this Draft Law is unacceptable and will only harm Ukraine’s European development.
We thank dozens of MPs from different factions and groups for their support and submission of amendments developed by experts from NGOs, which will remove the key threats of Draft Law.
In this regard, we call on the Committee on Legal Policy and all MPs of Ukraine to take into account these amendments when considering Draft Law No. 10337 in the second reading, first of all:
- Clearly stipulate that the law on lobbying shall not apply to the exercise and protection by citizens of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of Ukraine, and to the activities of non-profit organizations and non-profit institutions, including civil society organizations.
We urge to engage in the analysis and preparation of the Draft Law for the second reading the representatives of business associations, industry associations of enterprises, as well as representatives of European organizations in Ukraine, and EU experts in the field of lobbying.
We call on civil society institutions and all conscious citizens to support our position.
Human Rights Centre ZMINA
Agency for Legislative Initiatives
“Space of Freedom” (Prostir Svobody) Movement
Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Mass Information Institute
Regional Human Rights Center
ANTS – National Interests Advocacy Network
Democratic Initiatives Incubator
Social Action Centre NGO
Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law NGO (CEDEM)
Institute of Social and Economic Transformation NGO
Donbas SOS NGO
Center for Political and Legal Reforms
LGBT Human Rights Center “Our World” NGO
Anti-corruption Headquarters NGO
Human Rights Platform NGO
International Society of Human Rights – Ukrainian Section NGO
Ukrainian Institute for Human Rights NGO
Educational House of Human Rights – Chernihiv
International Charitable Foundation Caritas of Ukraine
Kharkiv Anti-Corruption Center NGO
Association for the Promotion of Self-Organization of the Population NGO
Center for Civic Representation Life NGO
Zero Waste Lviv NGO
Center Dobrochyn NGO
Chernihiv Center for Human Rights NGO
Center for Joint Development “Dieva hromada” NGO
Future Development Agency
Nova Druzhkivka NGO
All-Ukrainian League of Lawyers Against Corruption NGO
Kherson Regional Center “Successful Woman” NGO
Public Control Works
Kremenchuk Anti-Corruption Center NGO
Impact center KHID.SUA NGO
Civic Platform New Country
Institute of the Republic NGO
Community Development Center NGO
Khmelnytskyi district public organization “PRAVO”
Liberation Movement Research Center
All-Ukrainian Democratic Forum
MBF Ukrainian Public Health Foundation
Media Detector NGO
People’s Defense NGO
Against Corruption NGO
INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION
Women’s Anti-Corruption Movement NGO
Odesa Institute of Social Technologies NGO
Ukrainian Volunteer Service NGO
Civic movement “Vitsich”
Ukrainian World NGO
Committee of Voters of Ukraine
Public holding “INFLUENCE GROUP”ПІДПИСАТИ