Several Brussels-based NGOs have welcomed a ruling ruling by European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly that the European Commission should make its processes on revolving doors cases “more robust” to avoid conflicts of interest. The verdict was greeted by Corporate Europe Observatory, Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace, LobbyControl and SpinWatch.
It comes after a group of NGOs first raised the issue of how the European Commission handles revolving door issues with her office.
Earlier this week, Corporate Europe Observatory highlighted what it calls the “shocking” case of former UK Tory MEP Martin Callanan who took up a consultancy post soon after losing his MEP job in last May’s European Parliament elections.
Jorgo Riss of Greenpeace, one of the complainants in this case, says, “Recruiting via the revolving door is one of the most important tactics available to big business lobbyists and we’ve been concerned about it for years.
“The European Ombudsman made some important recommendations which should bring a tougher approach and more transparency to this area. It is key that, in the Ombudsman’s own words, the Commission has “a comprehensive and properly documented review process when staff leave to work outside”.
Further comment came from Natacha Cingotti, of Friends of the Earth Europe, who said, “The Commission’s failure to tighten up the revolving door erodes citizens’ trust in the EU and it can also have real consequences on regulations protecting public health, safety and the environment.
“EU officials have the duty to act ‘solely with the interests of the Union in mind’ and they must not be allowed to move between powerful corporate groups that have a commercial interest in influencing the EU’s decisions in the same field.”
Timo Lange of LobbyControl, another complainant in this case, says: “It’s clear that Commission staff should not be assessing each others’ revolving door cases and it is long overdue for the Commission to be transparent in this area.”
Among the 16 recommendations and suggestions from the Ombudsman is a demand that the Commission should ensure that the assessment of revolving door applications is carried out by staff who have not had any direct professional connections with the official concerned.
She also says the executive should inform staff that their duty “always to behave with integrity and discretion as regards the acceptance of certain appointments or benefits” is not time-limited.
The Ombudsman also said that the revolving doors cases of senior officials should be published online.
The Ombudsman also suggests that she is notified about any Commission decision not to publish a revolving door case involving a senior official and that she will inspect any such case files saying she “will not hesitate to use her full powers, including the obligation on officials to testify before her office, in cases of doubt as to the proper application of the conflicts of interest rules”.
By Martin Banks