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Swedish lobbying boom prompts regulation calls

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Swedish lobbying boom prompts regulation calls
11:32 CEST+02:00
Sweden's top EU politician Cecilia Malmström wants to register lobbyists, stating that Sweden's small size means political networks and friendships often overlapped.

Sweden's EU Commissioner wants to create a register with details of lobbyists and firms that conduct lobbying. The register would open up for public insight into the pressure exerted on lawmakers in Sweden.

"People have a right to know which lobbyists move around the halls of power," Malmström told Sveriges Television (SVT).

"That could be in the Swedish parliament or in the European parliament," she added.

The commissioner warned that Sweden's relatively small size meant that politicians and lobbyists were often socially acquainted.

"Sweden is quite a small country, where people know each other and will get together for a business lunch which is on paper informal but is actually lobbying," Malmström said.

"There doesn't have to be anything wrong with that per se, but it should be registered and people should know which interests and what kind of money is involved."

Sweden's population of lobbyists has shot up from around 100 some 20 years ago, to somewhere between 700 and 800 today, according to the Dagens Samhälle newspaper.

The Aftonbladet newspaper revealed earlier this month that as many as 37 percent of former lawmakers, top aides and appointed senior public servants went on to work as lobbyists after the end of their political tenure.

Göran Persson, the former Social Democrat prime minister, figured on the list of heavy-weights now on payroll for organizations with a clear political agenda.

As news of the cross-breeding emerged, The Local spoke with Swedish lobbyist Anna-Karin Hedlund, chairwoman of the Association of Public Relations Consultancies in Sweden (Föreningen Public Relations Konsultföretag i Sverige - Precis).

She warned that some register systems risked being arbitrary.

"So if I visit someone in parliament, my visit is logged, but if I bump into someone I know who works as an MP on the street or socially, that conversation doesn't show up in any register," she said.

READ ALSO: Swedish lobbyists have a culture of transparency

Many Swedish organizations and associations have long been adept at exerting political pressure, Hedlund noted, offering as examples the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO), the farmers association LRF and the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt näringsliv).

Ann Törnkvist

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