Group of 17 ex-EU-commissioners on double pay
By Matej Hruska
Seventeen former members of the European Commission get at least €96,000 per year in transitional allowances, money intended to help them ease back into the labour market, despite the fact that some of them already work as politicians or lobbyists.
The top earners in the group are former internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy and ex-fisheries chief Joe Borg, the Financial Times Deutschland reported on Wednesday (22 September).
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Since leaving his office in February 2010, Mr McCreevy has become a member of the supervisory board of Ryanair airlines, with an annual salary calculated by the Alter-EU anti-lobbying campaign group of up to €47,000.
But he is still said to get an additional €11,000 of transition money from the commission. The same amount is thought to go to Mr Borg who currently works for Fipra, a PR consultancy lobbying on maritime issues.
The commission's allowance rules say the transitional money is paid for three years and the sum is between 40 percent and 65 percent of the basic salary of a commissioner (€20,278 per month), depending on the length of service.
"This is to help former commissioners in the transition into the labor market," a spokesman of the commission is quoted as saying by FTD.
The transitional allowance is capped. "If the former commissioner takes up any new gainful activity, the amount of the new job's salary, added together with the allowance, cannot exceed the remuneration as a member of the commission," the rules say.
Dalia Grybauskaite, currently the president of Lithuania, who left the commission in July 2009, and Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister since May 2008 are also still on the Commission's payroll. Two members of the European Parliament receive the allowances as well - Poland's first commissioner Danuta Hubner and Belgium's Louis Michel.
Because of the increasing number of former commissioners taking part in business or lobbying activities, the European Commission is looking to tighten its code of conduct and to give it clearer language.
Brussels hopes to achieve the changes after an agreement with the European Parliament on institutional relations has been approved this autumn. The new code of conduct could possibly cover all the EU institutions, with currently only applies to the commission.
The engagement of the ex-commissioners in the private sector activities has caused discontent among NGOs, which launched an online petition Tuesday in which they ask the commission's president to introduce a three-year cooling-off period for commissioners wanting to move into lobbying activities.
"Many of these cases, such as Charlie McCreevy's move to Ryanair and Meglena Kuneva's move to BNP Paribas, give serious cause for concern. By launching his own lobby consultancy, Verheugen is blatantly violating the rules," the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation says on its website.