None. There is no regulation requiring former MEPs to seek authorisation for their subsequent activities.
Holger Krahmer was first elected to represent the German liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) in the European Parliament in 2004 where he remained until 2014. During this time, he was active on the environment, public health and food safety (ENVI), the temporary committee on climate change, and as a substitute member of the committee on industry, research and energy.
A few months after leaving the Parliament, Krahmer started working for the lobby consultancy firm Hanover Communication. He worked there for six months as a senior adviser on EU policy. In 2014, the firm declared an annual EU lobby turnover of between €500,000 and €999,999 (viewed 1 July 2015). Clients include Anglo American, biotech lobby group EuropaBio, and others with a likely interest in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Unsurprisingly, Hanover refers to the trade negotiations as one of its main EU interests.
In April 2015, Krahmer left Hanover to start working for Opel Group, the European branch of General Motors (GM), as director of European affairs public policy and government relations. There is very little public information about this appointment, especially as the company has not released any statement on the issue. Media reports explain that this is a newly-created position and that Krahmer will work with all GM brands.
Opel is a German car-maker, owned by GM. Opel, including Vauxhall, is now the third most sold brand in Europe in 2014. Opel is responsible for representing all GM interests in Europe. According to its entry in the lobby register, in 2014 the group reportedly spent between €900,000 – €999,999 lobbying the European institutions (viewed 1 July 2015).
Climate policy and the automobile industry
While an MEP, Krahmer worked extensively on the regulatory environment of the auto industry. Most notably, he was the rapporteur for carbon dioxide emission levels on light commercial vehicles. His report was criticised by civil society organisations and small business associations alike. The European Small Business Alliance; car leasing association, Athlon; and the retail trade association EuroCommerce, even wrote to Krahmer asking him to increase the emission reduction targets and implement a speed limit for vans. Car leasing firms and delivery companies claimed that Krahmer's targets would allow vans to continue being energy inefficient, thus failing to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and threatening to increase fuel costs for small and medium enterprises.
Krahmer responded saying:
“Laws to reduce the fuel consumption of vehicles are not there to patronise the drivers. It is not the role of the EU to require owners of commercial vehicles that they can only drive up to 120 kilometres per hour and then to say it is a contribution to climate protection (...) Besides, this decision is an interference with road traffic regulations of the member states.”
On the other hand, Krahmer's report, and ultimately the Parliament's vote, was welcomed by the European Automobile Manufacturers Associations (ACEA), of which Opel is a member.
The former MEP has been involved with EU climate policy in other ways too. After participating in the temporary committee on climate change, Krahmer contributed to "Inconvenient Truths about Europe’s Climate Policy: suggestions for new liberal approaches”, a report for the ALDE group, where he and other MEPs criticised climate change science and EU climate policy.
Opel, and ultimately GM, have a keen interest in overall climate policy and Krahmer's experience is likely to be very valuable to Opel whose lobby targets include “CO2 Emissions Reduction legislation”, “the Euro 6 vehicle emission legislation”, and the fuel quality directive.
But the car-maker also seems to be keen on the European emissions trading scheme (ETS). Earlier in the year, the group organised an event in Brussels to discuss future CO2 regulation where arguments were made to extend the ETS scheme to the traffic sector. Several civil society organisations, including CEO, have criticised this scheme for being inherently flawed and incapable of reducing carbon emissions significantly while providing windfall profits to the biggest polluters.
It is expected that GM's, and subsequently Opel's, interest in climate policy will only increase in the run-up to the climate conference in Paris in 2015. GM sponsored a previous climate conference in Warsaw in what CEO has described as an attempt to 'greenwash' its image.
Krahmer's parliamentary experience on regulatory issues affecting the auto industry may also be useful for Opel in the context of trade policy. Indeed, Opel's lobby register entry mentions trade bilateral negotiations such as TTIP as one of its EU interests. As a subsidiary of GM, Opel's interest lies in the uniformisation of regulatory standards, including safety features and crash testing. Auto safety is among the issues that have caused concern for consumer groups who fear a lowering of standards via TTIP.
Regulatory cooperation is one of the most controversial chapters in the TTIP negotiations. The current proposals carry the threat of lowering of standards in the name of harmonised rules to favour transatlantic business dealings. Regulatory cooperation will occur behind closed doors, far away from public and parliamentary scrutiny but likely to closely follow the agenda of big business. Regulatory cooperation has been described by consumer groups as the “surreal institutionalisation of lobbying”.
GM has been active in lobbying both the EU and the US on TTIP, both on its own behalf and through its membership of trade associations, including the American Chamber of Commerce EU, the British Chamber of Commerce, the Verband der Automobilindustrie (German automobile industry association), BusinessEurope and the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA). The ACEA has been active in lobbying MEPs on TTIP.
When contacted by CEO, Krahmer defended his new positions saying:
“As you know, I finished the parliamentary mandate at july 1st 2014. Nine months after finishing the mandate, i started working for Adam Opel AG. It is not in question, that Opel and myself did and does respect the existing laws and the EU-Institution Rules. Same is valid for hanover.”
On the 9 May 2015, Opel added Krahmer to its list of lobbyists with Parliament accreditation.
The rules in the European Parliament
The code of conduct for MEPs (approved in 2011) states that “Former Members of the European Parliament who engage in professional lobbying or representational activities directly linked to the European Union decision-making process may not, throughout the period in which they engage in those activities, benefit from the facilities granted to former Members under the rules laid down by the Bureau to that effect”.
When MEPs leave the European parliament they are entitled to a transitional allowance equivalent to one month's salary for every year they have been an MEP, with a minimum pay-out of six months' salary and a maximum of 24 months.
CEO's report on revolving door cases related to TTIP can be found here.
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.
“This is a shocking example of a politician spinning through the revolving door to lobby for the exact industry he had previously regulated as an MEP. This appointment raises serious concerns that institutional knowledge and insider know-how could be used to advance corporate interests, particularly on sensitive topics such as climate and trade policy. CEO believes that the Parliament needs to implement far stronger rules to prevent the risk of conflict of interest arising from the revolving door.”