Wednesday

25th Apr 2018

Former EU officials and an MEP land 'revolving door' jobs

  • A handful of former EC officials and an MEP are now working for companies in areas they legislated on (Photo: Thomas Hawk)

A handful of former EU officials and an outgoing top MEP have landed jobs in industry sectors that they legislated on.

The cases highlight what pro-transparency experts describe as a "revolving door" where policy-makers are hired to work for private companies with a vested interest in EU-level legislation.

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Last October, two consultancy firms hired Joao Pacheco. Pacheco was at that time the European Commission’s deputy director of agriculture.

Today, he is the director for European markets AFJ and associates in the US. He is also president at the Brussels-based JSPacheco-International consultancy firm.

Asked to comment, the commission says it has been looking into Pacheco but wants to maintain “a presumption of innocence” before making any accusations.

“This procedure is still on-going and we are therefore unable to provide any further comments at this point in time,” said a commission spokesperson in an email.

Pacheco’s case was first raised six months ago by Brussels-based Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO).

Other CEO cases include former commission officials Per Hellstrom and Peter Faross.

Hellstrom headed mergers for environment and energy at DG competition until February when he took temporary leave to work at Apple.

The commission says Hellstrom left for personal reasons.

It notes Hellstrom was allowed to take up an “outside activity” during his leave so long as he refrained from engaging in any lobbying or advocacy activity at the Commission.

Faross, for his part, was the acting deputy director general in DG energy until September. He had a 30-year career at the commission.

A few months later, he became the secretary-general at the Brussels-based UEAPME, representing small and medium-sized businesses.

The commission authorised the move so long as Faross refrains from lobbying on energy issues for up to one year. CEO says this is not good enough.

“It seems ludicrous to think that a ban on the secretary-general lobbying his old colleagues on energy issues is enough to prevent the risk of conflicts of interest from arising,” notes the NGO.

The commission says CEO’s proposal to expand on the 12-month lobby ban is disproportionate.

“It would also trample all over one of the fundamental rights we all have: to work, as enshrined in the charter of fundamental rights,” the commission told this website.

The revolving door has also caught an outgoing MEP.

Dutch centre-right deputy Corien Wortmann-Kool was vice-chair of the EPP's group for financial, economic and environmental affairs.

She now sits on the supervisory board at Aegon NV, a multinational life insurance, pensions and asset management company based in The Hague.

“She is in the supervisory board which convenes only once every three months, so technically it’s not a full-time job,” said her office.

Aegon NV, for its part, says they hired Wortmann-Kool primarily because she was a member of the European parliament, as well as for her broad experience with political, governmental and social organisations.

Parliament rules entitle Wortmann-Kool, as a former deputy, unrestricted access to the assembly for the rest of her life.

CEO says the case highlights the need for the parliament to put in place rules against the practice.

"We have a problem with the fact that there are no revolving door rules for MEPs," said CEO policy expert Vicky Cann.

Opinion

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Barroso did not break any rules and the rules do not need changing, the EU commission said, after its former chief joined the bank that helped to break Greece at a turbulent time in Europe.

Secrecy of VW fraud report 'unacceptable', says MEP

Finnish MEP Heidi Hautala won a trailblazing court case two decades ago for the right of EU citizens to receive 'partial access' to documents. Now she says it is "outrageous" the European Investment Bank is refusing to release Volkswagen documents.

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MEPs are using so-called 'friendship groups' to cater to foreign governments without oversight and little public scrutiny. Initially set up to promote cultural exchanges, some have become lobbying platforms to push state views from governments with poor human rights records.

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