Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

Call for curbs on MEPs' going through the revolving door

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Brussels, 6 June 2011 – A revolving door between the European Parliament and industry lobbyists could undermine the ability of MEPs to act in the public interest, according to a new report from Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) published today (Monday) [1].
The research and campaign group is urging the European Parliament's President Jerzy Buzek to address the issue when he convenes his working group this week [2].
A significant number of former MEPs have gone into industry lobbying jobs, using their knowledge of the system and their extensive contacts, to promote industry interests in the Parliament.
For example, former UK Conservative John Purvis, now chairs the Financial Future Forum for Brussels lobbyists Cabinet DN; former Irish MEP John Cushnahan (Fine Fail), now lobbies MEPs on behalf of British American Tobacco; and the Austrian MEP Hubert Pirker (EPP) set up EU Triconsult following his previous time as an MEP. Pirker, who returned to the Parliament following the resignation of Ernst Strasser, has now dissolved the company.

Campaigners say that the revolving door between the Parliament and lobby consultancies creates serious conflicts of interest. When MEPs move straight into lobbying jobs, there is also the risk that such contracts are a reward for favours done while the MEP was still in office.

Other MEPs retain close ties with industry while still in office, including via former assistants who have moved into lobbying positions. For example, the French MEP Françoise Grossetête (EPP) has strong links with the pharmaceutical industry, and has openly defended its interests. Her former assistant is now employed as the Senior Manager European Affairs at Sanofi Aventis.

CEO's transparency campaigner Vicky Cann said:

"Far too many MEPs are going through the revolving door into industry lobby jobs, which can lead to unacceptable conflicts of interest. The Buzek working group must address this issue and act to prevent the influence of industry undermining public duty."

CEO – together with the ALTER-EU coalition - is calling for MEPs:

• to be barred from negotiating lobby roles while still in office

• to face an 18-month cooling off period before taking up a lobbying role

• former MEPs employed as lobbyists should also be required to surrender their access passes to the Parliament.

The organisation also wants to see action to block MEPs from taking second jobs which involved acting in personal or others interests, including through lobbying European institutions and agencies.

MEPs should be forced to declare all additional earnings, and a cap should be introduced, limiting extra earnings to a proportion of their MEP's salary.

Contact:
Vicky Cann, email: vicky@corporateeurope.org, tel: +32 (0)2 893 0930, Mobile: +32 (0)489 596 478 /
Olivier Hoedeman, email: olivier@corporateeurope.org, tel: +32 (0)2 893 0930, Mobile: +32 (0)474 486 545)

Notes:
[1] Caught in the Parliament's revolving door, Nikolaj Nielsen for Corporate Europe Observatory, June 2011 http://www.corporateeurope.org/lobbycracy/content/2011/06/european-parli...
[2] The ad hoc working group led by Parliamentary President Jerzy Buzek was set up to examine the code of conduct for MEPs as well as improving transparency around relations between MEPs and lobbyists, after four MEPs were caught in a newspaper sting operation appearing to be prepared to accept cash in return for tabling amendments. The group is set to meet on Wednesday 8 June 2011.

 
Campaign groups today called on members of the European Parliament to back citizens' demands for improved rules to prohibit the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops. A letter signed by five environment, consumers and farmers groups was sent to all members of the parliament's environment committee, which will debate this controversial issue later in the week.
The new European Parliament is only weeks old and already three ex-MEPs from perhaps its most important committee have taken a spin in the revolving door to join the private sector. It's clear that the code of conduct for MEPs needs urgent reform.
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).

Corporate Europe Forum