Tuesday

20th Nov 2018

EU revolving door is lightning rod for populists, says NGO

  • Former EU commission president Barroso now works for Goldman Sachs (Photo: Portuguese EU presidency 2007)

The EU's failure to stop former European Commission staff and MEPs from working as lobbyists has boosted populist movements around Europe, says Brussels-based NGO Transparency International.

"This is an issue that really can't be ignored because it has become a lightening rod for popular discontent," Carl Dolan, director of TI's Europe office, told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday (31 January).

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 revolving door, where politicians or officials leave their posts to then lobby on the same issue they legislated on, has emboldened populist movements and their leaders in France, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, he said.

One EU commission official went on a sabbatical leave and now works for a major Saudi oil firm. EU sabbaticals, while unpaid, can last 15 years and pose larger questions on how sincere the EU institutions are in their stated aim to rein in abuse.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the former president of the EU commission, now works at Goldman Sachs.

The move riled his former employees and pushed the EU commission to extend its 18-month cooling-off period for commissioners to two years and to three years for its president, but sanctions against Barroso are unlikely.

No such rules apply to MEPs, who are also entitled to hold second or third jobs while in office, although paid professional lobbying directly linked to the Union decision-making process is, since January, explicitly prohibited. Their assistants are subjected to two-year cooling off restrictions.

Dolan warned against what he described as complacency at the EU commission and EU parliament to dismiss the issue as a "narrative" that will somehow go away.

"It is not going away, and if we don't see a concerted effort by the institutions to address these issues, put in place the proper regulations and the institutions to deal with it, it is going to come back again and again and haunt them," he said.

He said the EU parliament in "time-honoured fashion, ignores the issue" while the EU commission has "under-regulated" it.

The EU parliament says the question of revolving doors is an issue under discussion.

"We've seen a recent change in the Rules of Procedures this month, which reinforced rules on conflicts of interest and financial declarations for sitting MEPs and stipulated that former MEPs should notify lobbying activities to the EP," said an EP spokesperson in an email.

The EU commission described its rules as "the most demanding, strict rules that you can find".

Canada imposes a five-year cooling off period for MPs.

Lucrative jobs and policy influencing

Dolan's comments followed the release of a 35-page TI report on Tuesday that traces the career paths of 485 members of the European Parliament who left office since the elections in 2009.

It also looks at the 27 EU commissioners who worked under Barroso.

It found that 30 percent of former MEPs and more than 50 percent of former commissioners work for organisations listed in the EU's transparency register for lobbyists.

Not everyone in the register is a lobbyist, however.

"Some of these are board positions with think tanks, universities, NGOs," said co-author of the report, TI's head of advocacy Daniel Freund.

Some MEPs have died or retired. Four MEPs are in jail. But many have been hired to gain influence by lobbying their former colleagues.

Freund said the more worrying cases involved 26 former MEPs who now work for lobbying consultancies in Brussels. "These are clear cut cases where lobbying is the main part of their job description," he said.

Three of them work for global communications agency, Hume Brophy. Another 18 former MEPs work for companies or businesses listed in the register.

The biggest influencer in Brussels is Google, however. The US tech giant has listed 115 revolving door cases in the European Union alone, which also includes people working in offices located in places like Paris and Berlin.

The full results of the study can be found on EU Integrity Watch website.

Secret EU law making takes over Brussels

The public was denied a second round of scrutiny on every EU law passed last year, figures obtained by this website show. Transparency campaigners are livid.

Exclusive

EU parliament set to renege on transparency promises

Internal legal European parliament documents circulated Tuesday, and seen by EUobserver, rule it illegal to force MEPs to meet only registered lobbyists. The opinion will likely render a larger effort to create a mandatory register for lobbyists null and void.

News in Brief

  1. UK court rules against government in Article 50 case
  2. May to meet Juncker on Wednesday to finalise Brexit deal
  3. Future of EU's Mediterranean naval mission in doubt
  4. EU budget talks for 2019 collapse
  5. EU mulls new Russia sanctions over Ukraine 'elections'
  6. EU farm chief 'confident' sugar prices will recover
  7. Researcher: EU expert groups still imbalanced and opaque
  8. Nature groups disappointed by EU fishing deal

Opinion

Dodgy regime lobbying is below the EU's radar

In Brussels, PR professionals and lobbying consultants are working for some of the world's most autocratic regimes. And we have no way of knowing for sure who they are, how much they are paid, or what they are up to.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. EU parliament set to renege on transparency promises
  2. Cyprus and Greece to create EU spy academy
  3. MEPs likely to delay vote on greater transparency
  4. Cold shoulder for Franco-German euro budget plan
  5. Whistleblower: Danske Bank gag stops me telling more
  6. Spain raises Gibraltar, as EU and UK talk post-2020 relationship
  7. Panic is not answer to EU's security challenges
  8. Dutch flesh out proposal for EU human rights sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us