Wednesday

27th Jan 2021

EU Defence Agency chief turned lobbyist broke conduct rules

  • As European Defence Agency chief Jorge Domecq signed into force a code of good administrative conduct - which he then broke (Photo: European Union, 2019)

Jorge Domecq, the former chief executive of the European Defence Agency, is now lobbying on the behalf of the defence industry.

The move by Domecq to Airbus in Spain has roused possible conflicts of interests.

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Airbus is a global leader in the defence sector, the largest defence supplier in Europe, and is only second in terms of how many high-level meetings it has held with the European Commission.

Earlier this week, Airbus landed a huge contract in Spain to lead development on a new generation fighter.

And in May, the European Defence Agency awarded Airbus a multi-million euro deal for satellites.

But that is not the only issue.

Recently-released internal documents reveal Domecq had taken up his new Airbus post without first getting authorisation - in breach of the agency's own staff regulations.

Yet it was under Domecq's watch that the agency adopted a code-of-conduct of good administrative behaviour, which he had signed into force.

Domecq received a slap on the wrist for the offence after claiming summer holiday's had prevented him from following the rules.

"A warning (mise en garde) was issued in relation to the breach of staff regulations," an EDA spokesperson, said in an email.

The breach was first reported by Peter Teffer at the Dutch-based media investigative portal, Follow the Money.

But Belgian group Vredesactie (Peace Action) had also filed freedom of information requests over the affair, which it then shared with EUobserver.

Those files reveal a lax approach to internal rules, casting a shadow over an EU agency with numerous defence industry ties.

No accountability

It also poses questions on accountability.

The European Defence Agency drew similar conclusions, noting that the "impact of any action to sanctions [against Domecq] on this breach will have limited effect."

Domecq had spent five years at the Brussels-based agency, where had worked on areas like the new €13bn European Defence Fund.

He stepped down in January and was praised for having left behind a "solid, administratively sound and accountable" agency.

A few months later, Domecq provided the agency with scant information about his future career at Airbus. The agency demanded more details.

It then learned through Spanish media that Domecq had landed the Airbus job.

An internal email sent by the agency's deputy chief executive Olli Ruutu soon followed, slamming Domecq for the breach.

Ruutu said Domecq had "in fact not waited for the head of the agency's decision before engaging in a new occupational activity."

Ruutu further added that "Domecq has put himself in a situation which would per se constitute a conflict with the legitimate interests of the Agency, this situation could de facto lead to such a conflict."

The email, addressed to the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, is dated 4 September.

Domecq is now working as "Head of Public Affairs" and "Strategic"Advisor of Airbus Defence and Space" amid promises not to lobby the EU.

Such pledges and statements have been made in the past with similar results, posing questions on EU institutional efforts to protect reputations.

For its part, the European Commission says it is powerless to act given the independence of EU agencies.

"It is not for the commission to comment on the intentions or decisions of the agencies," said a commission spokesperson, in an email.

Airbus spent up to €2m lobbying the EU institutions in 2019.

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