Saturday

27th Aug 2016

EU ombudsman calls for independent watchdog on 'revolving doors'

  • Hundreds of commission staff, and a number of commissioners themselves, will enter the job market when the EU executive's current term ends in September (Photo: Worst Lobby Awards)

Decisions on whether EU officials taking lobbying jobs dealing with issues they had previously worked on could in future be made by a new independent body, European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly told MEPs on Tuesday (18 March).

Speaking at a hearing of the European Parliament's budgetary control committee, O'Reilly told MEPs that the EU institutions would have to be vigilant in policing the "revolving door" of commission officials taking jobs in the private sector.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Decisions on staff conflicts of interests could be transferred to a new watchdog, the European Ombudsman has warned. (Photo: European Commission)

She warned that "there may be a case for taking the assessment of conflicts outside the institutions, and to set up an independent body to decide on conflict of interest ... if they [the Commission] won't impose sanctions."

"If badly handled by the EU institutions [the period] could lead to reputational damage and legal challenges," O'Reilly said, adding that "it makes sound business sense for the EU to avoid all pitfalls from 'revolving doors'".

Under the current regime, the commission itself decides on whether appointments could lead to a conflict of interest, based on its own staff regulations.

The commission also has a three-member ethics committee monitoring departing commissioners who are looking for new jobs.

Setting up an independent watchdog would require the agreement of the EU institutions.

But NGOs and transparency watchdogs say former commission staff are often fast-tracked into powerful consultancy firms and then lobby people they had previously worked with while at the EU institution.

The question of conflicts of interests is also high on the commission's radar following the departure in 2012 of the health and consumer protection commissioner, John Dalli, over his alleged involvement in a tobacco bribery scandal.

Commenting on her investigation, O'Reilly said that "the commission certainly recognises that there is a problem but the question is whether these structures are effective ... it strikes me that there is an issue to implement and a reluctance to impose sanctions."

A number of commissioners and a large number of their handpicked personal cabinet members will enter the job market when the EU executive's current term ends in September.

In February, O'Reilly launched an investigation into ten cases where the commission had allegedly failed to prevent conflicts of interest.

The investigation required the commission to disclose all revolving door cases for the past three-years. NGOs and transparency campaigners argue that existing EU staff regulations and rules are too weak or poorly implemented.

O'Reilly, who said that she had posed a series of questions to the commission, including mooting the possibility of a central register for assessments of possible appointments, added that her investigation would assess whether the commission faced "a systemic problem".

Meanwhile, MEPs on the European Parliament's constitutional affairs committee also backed plans on Tuesday to force lobbyists working in and around the institutions to sign the EU's "transparency register".

So far an estimated 75 percent of all relevant business-related lobby groups and approximately 60 percent of NGOs operating in Brussels have signed the register, which is currently voluntary.

Gulen faithful at work in EU capital

Persecuted in Turkey as the alleged authors of the July putsch, the followers of Islamic teacher Fethullah Gulen stay active as ever in the EU capital.

Italy earthquake is test for Renzi

Italian prime minister is expected to present a quick reconstruction plan and request more budget flexibility from the EU after this week's tragic earthquake.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary plans to reinforce border fence against migrants
  2. France's highest court suspends burkini ban
  3. Greeks paid €1bn more in taxes in June
  4. Greek minister denounces EU letter on former statistics chief
  5. Turks seeking asylum in Greece may cause diplomatic row
  6. Merkel becomes digital resident of Estonia
  7. Report: VW will compensate US dealers with €1bln
  8. EU mulls making Google pay news media for content

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. GoogleBrussels - home of beer, fries, chocolate and Google’s Public Policy Team - follow @GoogleBrussels
  2. HuaweiSeeds for the Future Programme to Bring Students from 50 countries to China for Much-Needed ICT Training
  3. EFASpain is not a democratic state. EFA expresses its solidarity to Arnaldo Otegi and EH Bildu
  4. UNICEFBoko Haram Violence in Lake Chad Region Leaves Children Displaced and Trapped
  5. HuaweiMaking Cities Smarter and Safer
  6. GoogleHow Google Makes Connections More Secure For Users
  7. EGBAThe EU Court of Justice Confirms the Application of Proportionality in Assessing Gambling Laws
  8. World VisionThe EU and Member States Must Not Use Overseas Aid for Promoting EU Interests
  9. Dialogue PlatformInterview: "There is a witch hunt against the Gulen Movement in Turkey"
  10. ACCAACCA Calls for ‘Future Looking’ Integrated Reporting Culture With IIRC and IAAER
  11. EURidNominate Your Favourite .eu or .ею Website for the .EU Web Awards 2016 Today!
  12. Dialogue PlatformAn Interview on Gulen Movement & Recent Coup Attempt in Turkey