The European Parliament has been urged to draw up new “conflict of interest ” rules for former MEPs.
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    The European Parliament has been urged to draw up new “conflict of interest ” rules for former MEPs.

    The demand, by the respected Brussels-based pressure group, Corporate Europe Observatory, comes in the wake of what it calls the “shocking” case of former UK Tory MEP Martin Callanan. The group, which campaigns for more transparency and openness in the EU, says there is a direct conflict of interest between Callanan’s former job and a new consultancy post. Lord Callanan was leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, the third largest in the Parliament, until last year when he lost his seat in the Euro elections.

    He had been a member of the environment committee where he produced numerous reports as rapporteur or shadow rapporteur. Since then he has been made a member of the UK’s second chamber, the House of Lords.

    In November, it was announced that Callanan had become a consultant to the UK-based Symphony Environmental Technologies Group which “specializes in developing and marketing a wide range of plastic products and other environmental technologies, and operates worldwide”.

    Symphony’s CEO Michael Laurier said it was “delighted that Lord Callanan has joined us, and we all look forward to working with him. … his international experience, and service on the Environment Committee of the European Parliament will be of great benefit to the company.”

    At the time, Callanan said, “I look forward to working with Symphony to bring the benefits of their technologies to Europe and the wider world, and to raise awareness in the UK of the contribution which this British company is making to the UK economy and to public health and environmental protection worldwide.”

    In November 2014, Margrete Auken, a Danish MEP who had been pushing for a ban on oxo-biodegradable plastic bags, accused Symphony of using its links to the UK Conservative-led government to orchestrate a blocking minority against her bag ban in the EU Council of Ministers.

    Corporate Europe Observatory says Symphony is not listed in the EU’s (voluntary) lobby register.

    It says that according to his listing in the House of Lords register of members’ interests and information held by Companies House in the UK, Callanan has set up a company called MC Associates (Europe) Ltd.

    His clients, it says, include EUTOP, a Berlin-based lobby agency which is not in the EU lobby register but which claims: “Our work is tailored to the European decision-making structures and processes in all their commercial, cultural and political diversity. EUTOP has had a strong network of contacts among political decision-makers in Brussels and selected EU member states for more than 20 years”.

    Parliament’s code of conduct for MEPs, approved in 2011, state that “former MEPs who engage in professional lobbying or representational activities directly linked to the EU decision-making process may not, throughout the period in which they engage in those activities, benefit from the facilities granted to former members under the rules laid down by the Bureau to that effect”.

    However, Corporate Europe Observatory says that curently there is no process to monitor or enforce this part of the code and ensure that former MEPs do not use their lifelong access pass for lobbying purposes.

    When MEPs leave the European parliament they are entitled to a transitional allowance equivalent to one month’s salary for every year they have been an MEP, with a minimum pay-out of six months’ salary and a maximum of 24 months.

    CEO says it received no response when it tried to contact Callanan.

    A CEO spokesman said, “This is a pretty shocking revolving door case which once again illustrates how urgently the European Parliament needs to develop some conflict of interest rules for departing MEPs. There is a clear link between Martin Callanan’s membership of the Parliament’s environment committee and his new work for Symphony.”

    By Martin Banks