International conference, „Perceptions of Lobbying in the Business, Public and Civil Sectors“

The international conference, „Perceptions of Lobbying in the Business, Public and Civil Sectors – Experience in the Regions“, was held on 12 December 2012 in Sarajevo, organized by the Bosnia-Herzegovina (BH) Chamber of International Trade.

The conference was attended by state and canton officials and representatives from the chamber system, employers, companies, NGOs, education institutions and the media.  The conference speakers included Mr. Natko Vlahovic, Founder and Managing Director of Vlahovic Group and General Secretary of the Croatian Society of Lobbyists, Mr. Mate Granic, Former Croatian Foreign Minister and President of the Croatian Society of Lobbyists, and Ms. Elma Kovacevic Bajtal from the Education Institute within the BH Chamber of International Trade.

Being the first Croatian lobbyist to be registered in Brussels, Natko Vlahovic emphasized the importance of unifying and establishing an association of lobbyists within BH and presented how to channel activities towards influencing decision-makers. True lobbyists do not use corruption as a means of influencing.  A professional lobbyist is a person who must be aware of the fine line between influence and corruption, emphasized Vlahovic.  In the context of European Union integration, he added that the discussions must be initiated about what BH and especially the chamber can do to increase its presence and influence in promoting economic interests, increasing support for the European project and taking of advantage of EU funding.

Mate Granic spoke about his experience in lobbying in the region both locally and internationally and the necessity to regulate lobbying in Croatia through a legislative framework, which should be ratified in the first half of 2013.  Today, no investments or business activity can be realized without an organized lobbying strategy.

The conclusion from the conference is that BH needs a lobbying legislative framework, needs to establish a lobbing association, and needs to educate and promote the lobbying profession.