Former employer: DG Justice, Freedom and Security, Head of Sector, Preparedness and Crisis Management
Date: December, 2008
New employer: Smiths Group, Senior Vice President Government Relations
CEO has requested relevant documents relating to this revolving door case, but the Commission has so far refused to release any documents relating to Mr Ovilius's move to Smiths Group plc. On 2 May 2012, the Commission clarified that Mr Ovilius "objected to the disclosure of these documents". However, the Commission has confirmed that it approved Mr Ovilius's move, via a sabbatical, to Smiths Group in November 2008 and that they banned him from having contact with colleagues at the former DG Justice, Freedom and Security for a period of six months. This restriction is an automatic requirement of the sabbatical rules. The Commission has also told CEO that they have continued to approve Mr Ovilius's sabbatical every year since 2008. Ovilius returned to the Commission in March 2013.
Comment from CEO:
"Mr Ovilius's move through the revolving door via a sabbatical provokes important questions about how the Commission handles the risk of conflicts of interest. In CEO's view, the Commission's ban on Mr Ovilius from contacting members of his former DG for six months was not sufficient. We consider that the Commission should have been far more rigorous in applying the Commission's rules in this area, and should have been more sensitive to the potential conflicts of interest arising when a staff member goes on sabbatical to be employed in a sector related to his EU post and particularly where there is a lobbying element to the new work. ALTER-EU considers that this sabbatical post should have been subject to much higher restrictions applied on an annual basis, as allowed for by the rules, and that potentially it should have been prevented entirely."
Since December 2008, Mr Ovilius has been on leave on "personal grounds" (or on sabbatical) which is extended by the Commission on a yearly basis. He has the automatic right to return to his old job (or an equivalent one) at the Commission. Mr Ovilius has so far worked for the Commission for a total of 12 years.
Martin Ehrenhauser MEP has raised this revolving door case with the Commission via a parliamentary question, particularly to explore possible conflicts of interest between Mr Ovilius's former role at the Commission where he says he was responsible for "formulation, implementation and evaluation of European Union counter-terrorism policies including defence related aspects of counter-terrorism, law enforcement led civil protection, critical infrastructure protection, crisis management, CBRNE policies, G8 Roma/Lyon meetings and Security Research", and his role at Smiths Group.
Smiths Group is a technology company and produces technologies including for the security sector. Mr Ovilius met with the organisation responsible for air safety in the Commission on 12 March 2010. The Commission has also said that: “He [Magnus Ovilius] has been in contact with Commission services as representative of a security equipment manufacturer, in the framework of consultations undertaken on a regular basis with a wide range of external stakeholders [emphasis added]." Source: Information from a parliamentary question tabled by Martin Ehrenhauser MEP and answered by Commissioner Malmström: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getAllAnswers.do?reference=E-2011-012493&language=EN
Mr Ovilius is Senior Vice President responsible for government relations, which is a post which implies that he will be undertaking lobbying, advising on lobbying and / or overseeing the development of lobbying strategies. Magnus Ovilius himself is listed as the person with legal responsibility for the declaration of Smiths Group on the EU’s Transparency Register. Source: Information from EU Transparency Register, viewed 9 July 2012: http://ec.europa.eu/transparencyregister/public/consultation/displaylobbyist.do?id=30523216596-22
Update May 2014
In 2014, CEO learnt that Mr Ovilius had re-joined the Commission. The Commission subsequently informed CEO that he had joined DG Home Affairs in March 2013 in the directorate on migration and asylum, as a policy officer. The Commission has told CEO that it carried out a full assessment before he re-joined to ensure that there was a "complete absence of conflicts of interest".