Tuesday

24th May 2022

EU commission probed over 'revolving door' allegations

  • Insider networks and contacts potentially give rise to conflicts of interest at the European Commission (Photo: EUobserver)

The EU ombudsman on Thursday (14 February) launched an inquiry into the alleged failure of the European Commission to prevent conflicts of interest.

The probe follows a complaint filed by a handful of pro-transparency groups in October 2012.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The NGO watchdogs say former commission staff is sometimes shuffled into powerful consultancy firms and then lobby on issues they had previously worked on while at the EU institution.

“Many lobby consultancies headhunt commission staff because they provide them with invaluable inside knowledge and contacts,” said Rachel Tansey of the Brussels-based Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO).

The CEO campaigner said the profit-making strategy behind the headhunts is “one the commission cannot afford to ignore.”

In other cases, lobbyists are hired to work and provide input into policy-decision making like in expert groups set up to advise the commission.

Existing EU staff regulations and rules are either too weak or poorly implemented to stop the practice, also known as the ‘revolving door’, say the NGOs.

The CEO, along with Greenpeace, Lobbycontrol and Spinwatch, submitted the 51-page complaint. Tansey told this website that the commission had previously responded to the allegations, but found no problems.

“So as far as they're concerned, there's nothing more to say on those cases - which is why we took them to the Ombudsman, as we disagree,” said Tansey in an email.

The Brussels-based auditor said they have asked the commission to hand over the relevant files outlined in the complaint before launching a full-blown investigation.

The inquiry requires the executive to reveal all ‘revolving door’ cases for the past three-years.

Jorgo Riss, director at Greenpeace EU, welcomed the move.

“For too long, the commission has turned a blind eye to the conflicts of interest that can arise when EU bureaucrats change job to become lobbyists, or when lobbyists start working in the EU administration,” said Riss in a statement.

The watchdogs detailed examples where staff have either breached the rules or where the commission failed to properly inform the outgoing staff of their obligations.

Among the 10 names to be handed over to the ombudsman is Pablo Asbo.

Asbo worked in the commission’s competition directorate for six years until he moved to a senior position at the Brussels-based Avisa Partners consultancy firm in March 2011.

The NGOs said there should have been a ‘cooling off’ period between the time he left the commission and when he started his new job. They also say the commission was not proactive in reprimanding Asbo for not notifying his former paymaster about the type of work he was hired to do.

The commission sent Asbo a letter in November 2011, after the NGOs pushed the issue in September, informing him that he was banned from working on a number of files at Avisa.

The watchdogs say Asbo was given ample opportunity to lobby on the same files he worked on at the commission up until the notification months after he was hired.

Avisa maintains that Asbo has not worked on any of the banned company files but says on its website that “we rarely assume prima facie that there is no risk of conflict.”

For its part, the European Commission says its has responded numerous times to the cases brought forward by the NGOs.

“We have no doubt that the European Ombudsman will be able to quickly verify that there is no bad commission administration in the management of these files,” said commission spokesperson Frederic Vincent.

Opinion

Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine - the case for granting EU candidacy

Granting EU candidacy status to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will firmly anchor their ties with Brussels — and enable the EU to secure its place in the Black Sea region, connecting Europe to China and energy-rich Central Asia, bypassing Russia.

Opinion

The EU Parliament Covid inquiry: the questions MEPs must ask

A basic lack of transparency around the EU's vaccines procurement negotiations has prevented effective public and parliamentary scrutiny. It has also made it impossible to answer some of the key questions we put forward here.

News in Brief

  1. France 'convinced' Ukraine will join EU
  2. Von der Leyen: Russia hoarding food as 'blackmail'
  3. Legal action launched against KLM over 'greenwashing'
  4. Orbán refuses to discuss Russia oil embargo at EU summit
  5. Turkey's Erdogan snubs Greek PM
  6. ECB: Crypto may pose a risk to financial stability
  7. UK PM Johnson faces renewed questions over Covid party
  8. Sweden gives 5th Covid shot to people over 65, pregnant women

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  2. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June
  3. 'No progress in years' in Libya, says UN migration body
  4. Toxic pesticide residue in EU fruit up 53% in a decade
  5. Orbán's overtures to Moscow are distasteful and detrimental
  6. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is back
  7. EU aims to seize Russian assets amid legal unclarity
  8. Close ties with autocrats means security risk, Nato chief warns

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us