Friday

19th Apr 2019

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

Lobby register transparency talks collapse

Efforts to set up a better transparency register for lobbyists have collapsed after two years of talks. The impasse revolves around the European Commission's insistence that the register also become mandatory for the European Parliament and Council.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us