On 23 November 2012, State Solutions LLP participated in the GR Congress 2012, an international conference of Russian government relations’ professionals and lobbyists, which was held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Moscow. The agenda largely focused on the effective dialogue between business and government, and the lobbying industry self-regulation in Russia. The conference addressed major trends and developments, as well as key issues and challenges, of this profession and industry today. Amongst its participants were senior government officials and parliamentarians, lobbyists and government relations’ professionals from businesses, as well as international and Russian experts, NGOs representatives, and journalists.
“It was a competent and insightful talkshop about GR and lobbying, with many experienced professionals discussing where this industry is going, how it is now self-regulated, and what could be prospects for lobbying in future,” comments Alex Andreev of State Solutions LLP. “Many professionals working in this important area of business-government relations shared their experiences and expectations on how to make this dialogue more effective and transparent so the public and the business community can fully understand the existing official and legitimate mechanisms of effective GR and lobbying that work in Russia as a country interested in GDP growth and foreign investment into its economy”.
The Russian Government’s Envoy in the State Duma, Andrey Loginov, made it straight that Russia needs lobbyists, talking about established procedures in Russia’s parliament to obtain decisions. He outlined his views on possible criteria for accredited practitioners to the State Duma, should Russia has the law on lobbying.
There was a polarising discussion on whether Russia needs the law on lobbying to regulate the profession. Christian D. de Fouloy, President of the Association of Accredited Lobbyists to the European Union (AALEP), made an enthusiastic presentation to the audience, discussing Russian lobbying activities in the EU and expressing his views on the Russian GR industry. He spoke in favour of education and training for standards in “public policy advocacy” rather than any state regulation for the profession since it would create “unnecessary frameworks”. Natko Vlahovic, Chair of Croatia's Lobbyists Association, said that from Croatia’s experience the law on lobbying was necessary as it regulates the market and makes it more transparent. There was an engaging discussion between experts and within the audience.
Some speakers talked about cases of recent positive changes in administrative practices, which are favourable for businesses. Andrey Nikitin, Head of Russia’s Agency for Strategic Initiatives (ASI), talked about his state-sponsored agency's work as “obtaining decisions that positively affect an industry”. He mentioned cases where his agency affected change, such as simplification of customs regulation procedures, simplification of obtaining permissions for construction works, or simplification of procedures for registration of property ownership in Russia. The event’s moderator Pavel Tolstyh pointed out that business lobbying could be considered as actually not lobbying as such but rather as legitimate defence of legitimate interests.
The GR Congress in Moscow ended with the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between Russia’s National Association of Government Relations Specialists (The GR League) and the Association of Accredited Lobbyists to the European Union (AALEP). This was followed by an award ceremony for the best GR specialists of Russia in 2012, according to the GR League, where many professionals responsible for liaison with government authorities and regulatory bodies received recognition for effective work on behalf of their businesses.