CEO complains about EU ethics adviser with tobacco industry links

Corporate Europe Observatory, alongside Lobby Control and Corporate Accountability International, have today submitted a formal complaint to European Commission President Barroso over the controversial reappointment of Michel Petite to the Commission’s ad hoc ethical committee.

Petite is the former head of the Commission’s Legal Service, and now a lawyer for a firm whose clients include Philip Morris International. Petite's law firm, Clifford Chance, has not signed up to the Transparency Register (the EU’s lobbyists’ register), despite offering lobbying services. Yet it was revealed by the Commission in December that Mr Petite has met with former colleagues in the Legal Service to present views on the Tobacco Products Directive.

The main role of the Commission's ad hoc ethical committee is to deliver opinions on the post-employment activities of Commissioners – in other words, the revolving door. The committee must assess whether there are risks of conflicts of interest and judge whether ex-Commissioners moving into private sector lobby jobs are appropriate or not.

We believe that having taken a turn in the revolving door himself, and now representing Philip Morris International and other corporate clients, doubts are raised about Petite’s independence and credibility to assess potential conflicts of interest. We also believe that working for a law firm that offers lobbying services but shuns the Transparency Register disqualifies him from having an “impeccable record of professional behaviour” in relation to ethics and lobbying.

Petite’s reappointment to the ad hoc ethical committee is at odds with the Commission’s own rules, damaging to the public's perception of Commission decision-making processes, particularly in light of the Dalligate scandal and perceived undue influence of the tobacco industry. The re-appointment should therefore be revoked.

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