3rd Jun 2023

NGOs reveal 71 'revolving-door' cases at fossil-fuel giants

  • NGOs said the amount of cases illustrates 'how serious the problem of conflicts of interest is in climate policy-making' and how inadequate current rules are (Photo: Arek Dreyer)
Listen to article

New research on Monday (25 October) revealed dozens of 'revolving-door' cases across some of the biggest oil and gas companies in the EU and their lobbying groups – triggering calls for stricter ethics rules, similar to those in the tobacco industry.

The 'revolving-door' phenomenon of public sector officials leaving for often more lucrative roles in the corresponding private sector creates a risk of conflict of interest, as their previous status, contacts and insider knowledge can benefit their new employers.

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

Former European Commission advisers, EU ambassadors, MEPs, national MPs, energy and financial ministers, and even members of the United Nations, are among the list of 71 officials who held a public role before they were hired by fossil fuel companies, and vice-versa, since 2015.

The investigation focuses on revolving-door cases related to six fossil-fuel companies (Shell, BP, Total, Equinor, ENI and Galp), and five of their lobby groups (Hydrogen Europe, Eurogas, FuelsEurope, IOGP, CEFIC).

Collectively, they have spent over €170m lobbying EU policy-making for the last seven years.

The cases include former British energy minister Amber Rudd, who later became chair of Norway's Equinor UK international advisory group, and former Dutch deputy prime minister Gerrit Zalm, who later was appointed as non-executive independent director at Shell to lead negotiations with the Dutch government.

The report also mentions the current special advisor to the EU's foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell, Nathalie Tocci, who is also the independent non-executive director at Italian energy giant Eni, and former MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, who was later appointed secretary-general of Hydrogen Europe.

Friends of the Earth Europe, Corporate Europe Observatory and Food & Water Action Europe, who jointly carried out this investigation, warned that the amount of such cases illustrates "how serious the problem of conflicts of interest is in climate policy-making" and how inadequate current rules are.

Civil society, the EU ombudsman and MEPs are leading a push to strengthen current ethics rules.

The EU ombudsman Emily O'Reilly this year launched a major inquiry examining 100 revolving-door files of senior and mid-level managers in the EU Commission.

The European Parliament, meanwhile, is asking for the creation of a new EU independent ethics body to enhance transparency of EU officials' activities, including revolving-door cases.

For their part, NGOs are calling for a cooling-off period of five years for regular public officials and 10 years for high-level positions – which refers to the time before moving into fossil-fuels corporate jobs.

Cooling-off periods vary from two to three years depending on personnel's functions in the EU and member states. In France, for example, it is also three years for high level officials.

"We must separate fossil-fuel interests from policy-makers, similar to existing legal restrictions on the tobacco industry," said Myriam Douo from Friends of the Earth Europe.

Besides revolving-door cases, the new report also revealed 568 meetings between EU commission top-level officials and representatives of these companies and their associations since 2015.

This figure represents an average of 1.5 meetings with high EU commission officials every week, for the last seven years.

However, under the current rules, only top-level officials from the EU institutions have an obligation to register their meetings with lobbyists.

Ombudsman slams EU bank watchdog for 'revolving doors'

The European Banking Authority allowed its executive director to take a job at one of the world's largest financial lobbying groups. The move has been slammed by the European Ombusdman, who called it maladministration.

EU commission on defensive over 'revolving doors'

The European Commission rubber-stamped over 99 percent requests by officials to take on jobs in the private sector, posing ethical questions in light of known examples where conflicts of interests appear to be clear cut.

Latest News

  1. Spanish PM to delay EU presidency speech due to snap election
  2. EU data protection chief launches Frontex investigation
  3. Madrid steps up bid to host EU anti-money laundering hub
  4. How EU leaders should deal with Chinese government repression
  5. MEPs pile on pressure for EU to delay Hungary's presidency
  6. IEA: World 'comfortably' on track for renewables target
  7. Europe's TV union wooing Lavrov for splashy interview
  8. ECB: eurozone home prices could see 'disorderly' fall

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. InformaConnecting Expert Industry-Leaders, Top Suppliers, and Inquiring Buyers all in one space - visit Battery Show Europe.
  2. EFBWWEFBWW and FIEC do not agree to any exemptions to mandatory prior notifications in construction
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us