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Herman Van Rompuy

Former employer: 
European Council
Former function: 
President
New function: 
Chairman
New employer: 
TomorrowLab Advisory Board + European Policy Centre
Nationality: 
Belgium
Policy area: 
Date of Revolving Door: 
January, 2015
Institutional reaction: 

None. The Council has told CEO that: “There is no rule which establishes an obligation for the former president of the European Council to submit an application to undertake new professional activities.” The Council additionally said that Herman Van Rompuy's attention “was drawn to the obligations applicable to members of comparable EU institutions upon leaving high office”.

Other info: 

Herman Van Rompuy is a former Belgian prime minister who was also the first president of the European Council for five years until 30 November 2014. The president's role was a new one under the Lisbon Treaty and involves chairing the periodic summits of EU member state leaders and driving forward its work agenda. When he left the Council, it was announced that he would become chairman of the TomorrowLab Advisory Board.

TomorrowLab's objective is described as to “assist companies globally to improve their innovation efforts building their next future core business with a clear vision of the future on the radar” and it says that over 400 companies have joined its programmes since it strated 20 years ago. Its customers include major corporations including AXA, DuPont, Hewlett Packard, Mars Food and others. TomorrowLab's senior managers include several staff with a background at Belgacom and Van Rompuy will succeed Jean-Luc Dehaene, another ex-Belgian prime minister, in this role. TomorrowLab is not in the EU lobby register.

Van Rompuy has publicly said of his new role:

“It's crucial that decision-makers have the opportunity to free themselves from short-term thinking. Long-term thinking, multidisciplinary consultation, and the exchange of innovation experience are the best guarantee for success in the future … I'm looking forward to being able to meet business leaders who believe in the future of their companies through TomorrowLab and to exchange experiences with them.”

When approached about this role Van Rompuy told us that it would involve hosting

“neutral, independent think-tank roundtables where captains of society are invited to talk about future challenges (water, energy, IT, resources, …). Attendees of these roundtables like the neutral environment wherein these discussions find place. These tables are free for attendants and has no political goal. These roundtables are organized 4x/year. This started several years ago”.

He also told us that this role is unpaid and that there will be “no lobby in any EU institution”. Van Rompuy said that the widow of Jean-Luc Dehanene “invited me to succeed Mr Dehaene in this role on voluntary basis with no strings attached”.

Van Rompuy's full response to CEO can be read here.

Council rules

As stated above, the Council has told CEO that: “There is no rule which establishes an obligation for the former president of the European Council to submit an application to undertake new professional activities.” The Council informally asked that Van Rompuy notify the new European Council president (Donald Tusk) and the secretary general of any intention to take on paid or unpaid work for the next 18 months. In the instance of TomorrowLab, the Council has no record of having received such documents.

Van Rompuy is entitled to a generous transitional allowance upon leaving his post. For three years, he can receive an allowance equal to 50 per cent of his Council salary up to a total of 9754 euros per month which will be reduced if significant new income is earned.

Update 8 July 2015

In June 2015, it was announced that Van Rompuy would become President Emeritus of the European Policy Centre think-tank. According to the press release, he will "be actively involved in the EPC’s activities and co-operate with the team to contribute to the EPC’s output and development, helping to deliver its vision of fostering European integration through analysis and debate." Fabian Zuleeg, EPC Chief Executive said: "We are all very excited to have him on board. His experience and vast knowledge of European politics and policy-making will decisively enhance the EPC’s ability to impact current and future discussions about the European Union and the many challenges it is facing".

Comment from CEO: 

"As Van Rompuy's new role at TomorrowLab role is unpaid, it is unlikely that it will provoke a specific conflict of interest concern. However, it is pretty shocking that whilst handing out a generous transitional allowance to its former president for three years, the Council has no commensurate rules to scrutinise any new professional activities. This should be rectified forthwith; after all, the Council's request that Van Rompuy voluntarily notify it of proposed new roles has apparently not been complied with.”

 

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