Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

Revolving door scandal - ALTER-EU call

  • Dansk
  • Nederlands
  • English
  • Suomi
  • Français
  • Deutsch
  • Ελληνικά
  • Italiano
  • Bokmål
  • Polski
  • Portuguese
  • Română
  • Slovenščina
  • Español
  • Svenska

Brussels, 27 September 2010 – The ALTER-EU civil society coalition today called for the introduction of three-year cooling-off period for former Commissioners, and urged the EU Commission to block the new jobs for former Commissioners Charlie McCreevy and Günter Verheugen because of conflicts of interest.

Following the controversy surrounding six former EU Commissioners who have taken up employment in the private sector[1], the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation in the EU (ALTER-EU) today published documents showing that the European Commission’s existing checks are inadequate and fail to prevent conflicts of interest.

ALTER-EU is calling on the Commission to re-examine the current employment of ex-Commissioners Verheugen, McCreevy, and the four others, and to swiftly introduce a stricter Code of Conduct for Commissioners, including a three-year cooling-off period during which former Commissioners are not allowed to take up any post that might constitute a conflict of interest with their former work.

Internal Commission documents obtained under freedom of information rules and published by ALTER-EU today (http://www.alter-eu.org/conflicts-of-interest-former-commissioners-relev...)  reveal the procedures used to approve the new posts for former Commissioners,  Verheugen, Joe Borg and Benita Ferrero-Waldner. The documents show that the process, carried out primarily by an Ad-hoc Ethical Committee, is superficial and lacks any serious assessment of possible conflicts of interest. Statements from ex-Commissioners appear to have been accepted without any further investigation.

Paul de Clerck from ALTER-EU commented:
 “The Ethical committee is not doing its job properly. It accepted ex-Commissioner Verheugen's claim that his job at the Royal Bank of Scotland does not involve lobbying, yet RBS clearly stated that they hired Verheugen for his experience and contacts in European politics. We need a better system here”.

Last week, ALTER-EU launched an online petition, calling on the Commission to block Verheugen’s involvement in the lobby firm European Experience Company, the latest of five private sector jobs taken up by Verheugen after leaving the Commission in February[2].

ALTER-EU also sees a clear risk of conflict of interest in the case of Benita Ferrero-Waldner who has taken jobs with Munich Re and Gamesa (both companies that are involved in the Desertec energy project)[3] and in the latest position taken by ex-Commissioner Charles McCreevy (Commissioner for Internal Market 2004-2010) who last month joined the board of NBNK Investments PLC, an investment company which aims to buy banking assets that are being sold off after the financial crisis. McCreevy's salary will reportedly be between 61,000 and 122,000 euro per year depending on NBNK achieving a major acquisition. McCreevy is reported to hold 20,000 shares in the company [4]. It is unclear whether McCreevy has informed the Commission about this new job.

Olivier Hoedeman, also from ALTER_EU said:
“McCreevy's latest job move violates the existing Code of Conduct as the activities of NBNK clearly relate to the content of McCreevy's portfolio when he was Commissioner..

While at the Commission, McCreevy, who was responsible for developing EU banking regulations, was repeatedly criticised by Members of the European Parliament for failing to impose strict regulations on the financial sector.

“It looks bad when the Commissioner responsible for regulating the financial sector then takes up employment in that same sector,” Hoedeman said.

Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso promised more than a year ago that the Commission would review its Code of Conduct[5]. The string of recent scandals shows that further delay in upgrading the Code of Conduct is unacceptable.

Contact:
Olivier Hoedeman, Corporate Europe Observatory (EN, NL) Tel : +32 4 7448 6545  +32 2 893 0930olivier@corporateeurope.org

Paul de Clerck, Friends of the Earth Europe (EN, NL, FR) Tel : +32 494380959
paul@milieudefensie.nl

Nina Katzemich, LobbyControl (EN, DE) Tel.: +49 221 1696507  / +49 179 5093022 nina.katzemich@lobbycontrol.de

Notes to the Editor:
[1] The six ex-Commissioners are Benita Ferrero-Waldner (Munich Re and Gamesa), Meglena Kuneva (BNP Paribas), Günter Verheugen (RBS, lobby consultancy Fleishman Hillard, European Experience Company, the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges and a German banking lobby group), Charlie McCreevy (NBNK and Ryanair), Joe Borg (lobby consultancy FIPRA) and Lous Michel (Credimo).

[2] 3500 citizens have so far participated in the online petition: http://www.alter-eu.org/cyber-action-stop-verheugen-stop-ex-commissioner...

3: The Dutch daily De Volkskrant  highlighted on Friday that the Commission's Ethical Committee seems to have overlooked serious problems when approving ex-commissioner Ferrero-Waldner's jobs earlier this year. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the Commissioner for external relations, had since 2009 heavily backed the Mediterranean Solar Plan, part of the larger Desertec plan, intended to provide electricity to Europe via mega-scale solar and wind power investments in North Africa. Ferrero-Waldner has now taken up paid board positions in Munich Re and Gamesa, key players in Desertec. Documents published today by ALTER-EU show that the Commission’s Ethics Committee assessing her jobs seems to have missed all this, concluding that "the job has no link with the former portfolio of the Commissioner."

4:“McCreevy's €4bn corporate raider eyes AIB UK“,Independent.ie, September 19 2010 http://www.independent.ie/business/european/mccreevys-euro4bn-corporate-...

5: Commission President Barroso made the promise to MEPs in September 2009. ALTER-EU wrote to the Commission in November 2009 and May 2010 calling for a swift review of the Code of Conduct and the introduction of a cooling-off period to prevent ex-Commissioner from moving into jobs with conflicts of interest. On 17 May 2010, ALTER-EU wrote to President Barroso, and Commissioners Sefcovic and Semeta to raise concernes about potential conflicts of interest for former Commissioners http://www.foeeurope.org/corporates/pdf/Letter%20to%20Commission%20on%20...

On 24 November 2009, ALTER-EU sent a letter to Commission President Barroso, asking him to address conflicts of interest in the revision of the code of conduct for EU Commissioners; http://www.alter-

Related issues: 
 
EU efforts to deal with endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) has provoked massive industry lobbying from multinationals producing pesticide, plastics and what have you. Many of their products contain chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties, which mean they can interfere with our hormone system even at very low exposur levels. A new film covering this battle by French investigative journalist Stéphane Horel was broadcast on France 5 in August. Now this must-watch movie is online.
Karmenu Vella is a Maltese politician and the country's nominee to be European commissioner, responsible for environment, maritime and fisheries. He has been a member of the Maltese parliament since 1976, but that hasn't prevented him from also holding a variety of external business roles at the same time including within the gambling industry. CEO now argues that these recent outside interests make him unsuitable to be a commissioner.
CEO submission to the European Ombudsman Consultation on the composition of Commission expert groups
Scientific advice should be transparent, objective and independent, and there should be more science and more diverse expertise available to the European Commission’s President, a coalition of 28 international and national NGOs wrote in a letter addressed to President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker today (1).
EU efforts to deal with endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) has provoked massive industry lobbying from multinationals producing pesticide, plastics and what have you. Many of their products contain chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties, which mean they can interfere with our hormone system even at very low exposur levels. A new film covering this battle by French investigative journalist Stéphane Horel was broadcast on France 5 in August. Now this must-watch movie is online.
Corporate Europe Observatory is looking for an experienced, French-speaking campaigner to join our team and strengthen our work on the EU-US trade and investment deal (TTIP). This position is a full time (36 hours per week) temporary position for one year. React before Friday September 26th 2014.
Karmenu Vella is a Maltese politician and the country's nominee to be European commissioner, responsible for environment, maritime and fisheries. He has been a member of the Maltese parliament since 1976, but that hasn't prevented him from also holding a variety of external business roles at the same time including within the gambling industry. CEO now argues that these recent outside interests make him unsuitable to be a commissioner.
The announcement today that Jean-Claude Juncker, president-elect of the European commission, will hand responsibility for financial services to Jonathan Hill compounds CEO's view that British PM David Cameron should withdraw his nomination of Hill.

Corporate Europe Forum