Sunday

4th Dec 2022

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • 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.

Ombudsman vows 'robust' action against EU secrecy

EU ombudsman Emily O'Reilly wants more transparency from EU institutions on letting officials switch to the private sector, negotiating trade agreements, and allowing medicines onto the European market.

Opinion

How to fix the EU 'revolving door'

Barroso's move to Goldman Sachs screams out the need for EU institutions to create a real ethics panel that inflicts financial and other sanctions on people who sell out the public they once served.

Ombudsman: 'Now the hard work begins'

Emily O'Reilly marked her first year in office as the European Union's Ombudsman on Wednesday but her gloves are only coming off now.

EU commission under fire over Barroso bank job

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.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals
  2. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  3. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  4. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  5. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US
  6. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  7. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  8. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us