The Commission did not screen Fanny-Pomme Langue for conflicts of interest when she took up her post as a bioenergy lobbyist.
The European Commission's DG Energy told CEO that Ms Langue “was employed as a contract agent from 16/09/2009 - 15/09/2012 and did not have access to sensitive documents/information during her assignment. Therefore, and according to the provisions in place (Article 21 of the Commission Decision on outside activities and assignments) she is/was not obliged to request the explicit authorisation of the Appointing Authority (AIPN) for her to be able to accept her current employment.”
Thus, despite working on regulatory policies of DG Energy for three years, the loopholes in the staff regulations about non-permanent contract staff (staff on 'temporary' contracts, of up to six years!) meant that she faced no screening for potential conflicts of interest in her new job as a lobbyist for the agrofuels industry.
From September 2009 till September 2012 Ms Langue worked as a Policy Officer in DG Energy Unit "Regulatory Policy and Promotion of Renewable Energy". According to her LinkedIn profile, her work included co-managing the drafting of the Commission's report on sustainability requirements for solid/gaseous biomass, and the monitoring of the implementation and compliance with the EU Renewable Energy Directive. She was in regular contact with major public and private stakeholders.
One of these major stakeholders is AEBIOM, the European Biomass Association. AEBIOM describes itself as “the common voice of the European bioenergy sector with the aim to develop the market for sustainable bioenergy, and ensure favourable business conditions for its members." A core task therefore is the lobbying of European Institutions, as indicated by AEBIOM's entry in the EU's lobby transparency register.
In January 2013 Ms Langue started to work as Policy Director of AEBIOM. Her main tasks involve the representation of the bioenergy sector at EU level, the definition of the position of the bioenergy sector towards EU legislation and policy making related to biomass and the representation of AEBIOM to European Institutions and other European stakeholders. AEBIOM's entry in the lobby register (as ofAugust 2013) shows that Ms Langue is an accredited lobbyist to the European Parliament i.e. she has an lobbyist's access badge.
In March 2012, Ms Langue spoke on behalf of DG Energy at the 7th Annual World Biofuels Markets conference, “Where the Biofuels World Meets to do Business”. Her speech was immediately followed by the presentation of the Secretary General of AEBIOM. This shows Ms Langue and AEBIOM had professional contacts whilst she was working in public policy for the Commission, on the very policy-dossier she now covers as a lobbyist for AEBIOM.
Just four months after leaving DG Energy, Ms Langue wrote an article as Policy Director of AEBIOM, in the web-magazine RenewableEnergyWorld.com, remarking that: "From the EU policy side, 2013 is going to be crucial for the bioenergy sector as the Commission is expected to publish a legislative proposal on sustainability criteria for solid and gaseous biomass used in heating and cooling and in electricity (...). The content of the criteria is likely to be based on the biofuels criteria and on the recommendations taken by the Commission on solid and gaseous biomass in 2010. AEBIOM is in favour of a harmonised European approach with pragmatic and realistic criteria.”
Ms Langue's 'estimation' of what the content of the new sustainability criteria were 'likely' to be based on would seem quite probable, since she herself co-managed the Commission's report on sustainability requirements for solid/gaseous biomass.
It should be noted that the Commission's sustainability criteria for biofuels have been extremely controversial, particularly over how they (fail) to take into account the effects of indirect land use change (ILUC) on calculating greenhouse gas emissions and consequently, the climate impact of different biofuel crops.
CEO contacted Ms Langue for comment, who stated that she is not aware of such “risk of conflicts of interest” from her new job at AEBIOM. This is despite her recognizing that she was dealing with bioenergy files at DG ENERGY and that her current work area is bioenergy, and despite noting that “As Policy Director of an EU level association, I logically sometimes have contacts with EU policy makers (for eg, in European Commission and European Parliament) in order to express the views of the organisation” (Email to CEO, 31 July 2013).
* Background research by Manuel Melzer, ALTER-EU trainee April 2013.
Update 18 August 2015: Langue remains at AEBIOM and is still a registered European Parliament lobbyist.
Update 18 November 2015: You can also read about 15 other energy/ climate/ environment-related revolving door stories in our November 2015 report: Brussels, big energy, and revolving doors: a hothouse for climate change.
"Fanny-Pomme Langue's trip through the revolving door is emblematic of the most clear cut conflict of interest. She went from being part of writing sustainability criteria as a public official to lobbying to make sure those criteria would not damage the profitability of the agrofuels industry. In her new job as policy director of a lobby group in the bioenergy sector she is working on the very same issues that she worked on as a regulatory policy-maker at DG Energy. Her inside knowledge and contacts with DG Energy staff may provide special influence on the drafting of legislation in this sector.
Moreover, this job move was subject to no scrutiny whatsover, because the revolving door rules don't apply to non-permanent contract staff unless they had access to 'sensitive' information. The Commission is using this kind of 'non-permanent contract staff more and more. The new Staff Regulations, which were adopted in June 2013, unfortunately do not close this loophole, and in fact allow such 'temporary' contracts to employ a staff member for up to six years. CEO believes that in order to avoid the risk, perception or actuality of conflicts of interest, the loopholes for temporary contract agents must be closed. When it comes to moving to a lobby job on the same policy area, contract staff should also be screened for conflicts of interest, with restrictions imposed where appropriate."