Lobbying: "Definitley a new trend"

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In 2012 the foreign office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation established the “Young Group” of german and italian professionals from politics, administration and economics. The group meets twice a year – alternately in Germany and Italy – to discuss current social and political topics concerning the two countries. Throughout the personal contact we would like to strenghten and to sensibilize germans and italians to relevant issues regarding each others.

The next meeting will take place from 14th to 16th November in Berlin and will discuss  “The impact of lobby and special interest groups on political processes”. One of the participants will be Gianluca Sgueo. Besides teaching Lobbying at Bocconi University he is also author of the book “Lobbying & lobbisimi – Le regole del gioco in una democrazia reale”. We wanted to know his opinion about lobbyism in Italy…

Gianluca Sgueo (Source: G. Sgueo)

 You teach Lobbying and Democracy at the Bocconi University – a common topic or a new trend? How do your students respond to it?

It is definitively a new trend. While democracy is a topic that scholars from various disciplines and with different backgrounds have addressed and that is often taught at the university level, lobbying conceived as a teaching subject is still in its infancy. Just a few Italian universities offer a complete formation on this topic (LuissUniversityinRome, for instance) and none had never organized a teaching course focused on lobbying and democracy. By contrast, the post-university formation is extremely various. There is plenty of masters or other post-graduate courses devoted to public affairs and lobbying.

Comparing Italy to other European nations (or Europe itself), is Lobbying in Italy similar to them or different? Have negative powers, connected to Lobbying more or less influence inItaly?

Differences have to be sketched on a case-by-case analysis. Indeed, the main one is the normative framework for lobbyists. Italy lacks a regulation on lobbying, notwithstanding several attempts from the Parliament and the Government. A second difference is linked with ethics. I believe that the ethical standards adopted in Italy are far less efficient (and implemented) than those adopted in other countries. This of course influences the job of lobbyists. A third difference is in the common perception of this profession. I am not saying that Bruxelles or Washington are completely different from, say,Rome. Yet, in Italy is very rare to meet journalists that are interested in reporting how lobbying works. they rather prefer to narrate lobbying as a form of corruption

You are working for the Italian government as well. To what extent are you confronted with lobbying in your every-day work? To what extent is the government affected by lobbying?

In this very moment I do not hold any governmental position. I was the Coordinator of the Press office of the Prime Minister with the previous government and I can say that my stakeholders were journalists and citizens. Only in few occasions lobbyists contacted me, and I always tried to put them through the right person or office.

You frequently write articles for the blog “formiche” regarding Lobbying. How is the response of the readers?

Yes, Formiche is an online newspaper that hosts bloggers interested in politics, society or economy. I decided to dedicate my blog to lobbying. I enjoy writing as a blogger because I can use an informal language, I can write very short pieces, and I am not in a rush for finishing what I want to write. As a matter of fact, is the opposite of what I do everyday as Professor and scholar. Responses to my posts seem to be good, especially on twitter. This however may depend on the fact that I circulate my posts among people who are interested on this topic (many are lobbyists themselves).

Inasmuch is the Italian public interested in Lobbying? Are you satisfied with the media attention? Should Lobbying in Italy be discussed on a wider public level?

Paradoxically, the level of attention from the media is high, but is often off-topic. As I said before, journalists are not interested in reporting how lobbying works. This happens for a number of reasons. One of which is the fact that lobbying is not as cool as it might seem. It is for this reason that you will generally find reportages that describe lobby and lobbyists as people with a large network of contacts, and in close friendship with politicians. In this sense I would prefer a wider debate focused on other aspects: how to regulate it, how to set an acceptable level of transparency, how to define a professional progression of lobbyists, and so on.

The interview questions have been realized by Antonia Ruck, intern in the foreign office of  the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Italy.

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