Monday

15th Apr 2024

French official accused of conflict over EU fish lobby job

  • France and the European Commission are at loggerheads over EU fishing rules (Photo: EU commission)
Listen to article

A senior French official is being accused of conflicts of interest for spearheading a leading role in Europeche, a fishing-industry lobby group based in Brussels.

Anne-France Mattlet, who spent over five years in the French administration dealing with international ocean governance and tuna-related policies, will be working for Europeche and its French-equivalent Orthongel for one year before returning to her government post.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

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

... or subscribe as a group

"Basically she was placed by France for a year within Europeche and Orthongel for a mission, which we think is to avoid France going to court with the European Commission," said Frédéric Le Manach from the Paris-based NGO Bloom, which campaigns against overfishing in the oceans.

France and the European Commission are at loggerheads over EU fishing rules, which aims to prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

The commission says Paris has failed to ensure effective monitoring and control of the French external fleet, especially when it comes to a so-called 'margin of tolerance' of 10 percent per individual fish species.

That 10 percent margin means a boat which catches 100 tonnes of Yellow Fin tuna, can declare 90 tonnes.

The commission sent a formal legal notice against France last year, a move that precedes taking Paris to the European Court of Justice.

For her part, Mattlet represented French interests at the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, an intergovernmental organisation, and where she chaired the compliance committee until March of this year.

In April, she started her new role at Europeche where she heads the division dealing with tuna.

Part of her task includes tweaking the margins of tolerance, so that the 10 percent will cover the entire catch and not just by species, as cited in the European Commission's legal complaint.

Asked for a comment, a consultancy service responding on her behalf stated Mattlet had no insider or private knowledge of the commission's legal complaint while working for the French administration.

They also said that she had no industry contact while chairing the compliance committee at the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission.

"It was about compliance of the parties, not the fishermen," they said. "She was therefore only in contact, with the states during the 3/4 days of the meeting," they said, in an email.

In a separate statement, they also accused "militant NGOs" of carrying out a disinformation campaign over bogus conflicts of interest claims.

But Bloom along with the French anti-corruption association, Anticor, have denounced her move and have since informed the French public prosector. Along with pro-transparency campaigners Corporate Europe Observatory, Bloom also filed a formal complaint with the EU Transparency Register.

They say her new post is a conflict of interest and a case of 'revolving doors', whereby a public official lands a job in the private sector dealing with the same issues they legislated on.

Public officials in France are required to have a three-year cooling off period before they can go into the private sector.

But Frédéric Le Manach says Mattlet got clearance because the French ethics committee views Europeche as a civil society organisation on par to an NGO. This comes despite Europeche's president, Javier Garat, declaring Mattlet's presence at the lobby group "as a valuable asset to our companies".

France 'dupes' MEPs

Meanwhile, the margin of tolerance will be discussed among the EU co-legislators next week behind closed doors. Those talks are part of the EU fisheries control regulation reform, an enforcement and monitoring law.

The European Parliament is seeking to possibly expand the margin of tolerance for tuna to 25 percent.

That figure was introduced as amendment at the committee level by Isabel Carvalhais, a Portuguese socialist MEP. But when the amendment was presented to the plenary, she voted against it.

"I voted indeed negatively for an amendment initially proposed by myself," she told EUobserver. The change of mind followed an analysis and socialist party loyalty, she said.

Bloom says the real reason is that she had been duped into believing that the margin only applied to small scale fisheries.

"They realised that they had been fooled by France. It was a very big win for the tuna industry," said Le Manach.

Opinion

Big corporations' fresh lobbying push for a new EU legal regime

Under the influence of another intense lobby campaign, EU civil servants are drafting policy options which would grant big business new legal privileges, a push that would enable industry to bypass national courts when settling disputes with EU member states.

'Big Five' tech giants spent €19m lobbying EU in 2020

The increased regulatory scrutiny of tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft has triggered a rise in lobbying activities by these companies in Brussels, and, accordingly, an exponential grow of their budget for these activities.

Feature

How corporate lobbyists steer EU law-making

Former EUobserver investigations editor Peter Teffer has written a new book about how lobbying in the EU works. The EU's focus on the internal market offers corporate lobbyists a perfect means to forward their interests.

Opinion

Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation

As Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos just reclaimed the title of the richest person on Earth, its workers cannot even take a bathroom break under the pressure of meeting inhumane performance targets.

Opinion

The Bolsonaro-Orbán far-right nexus

Defeated far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has given various reasons for sheltering at the Hungarian embassy in Brasilia — none of them make sense.

Latest News

  1. EU leaders condemn Iran, urge Israeli restraint
  2. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  3. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  4. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  5. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  6. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  7. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  8. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us