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Joe Borg

Former employer: 
European Commission
Former function: 
Commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries
New function: 
Special advisor
New employer: 
Fipra
Nationality: 
Malta
Policy area: 
Date of Revolving Door: 
August, 2010
Institutional reaction: 

The Commission authorised Dr Borg’s proposed move to Fipra with the condition that he did not provide advice on integrated maritime policy or the common fisheries policy. This case was not referred to the ad hoc ethical committee which usually advises on such matters, as the Commission accepted Dr Borg’s commitment to not work on issues related to his former portfolio. The Commission also authorised his request to work at the University of Malta.

Other info: 

Dr Joe Borg was appointed as a part-time special adviser to Fipra, one of Brussels’ biggest lobby firms, in 2010.

At the time of his move to Fipra when he applied to the Commission for authorisation, Joe Borg wrote that he

“would be advising clients largely on matters nor directly linked with my recent mandate at the Commission. If however at any point Fipra were to ask me to work on any matter that might be linked to my mandate I would let you know and where necessary and appropriate I would excuse myself therefrom”.

At the time, Fipra chairman Peter Lehrell was quoted as saying about Borg:

“He will not be performing any tasks related to his past portfolio whatsoever, although I would like the right to go back to the Commission and say: ‘Do you mind if we do?’ He was Maltese foreign minister for a while... I hired him because we don’t have any representation there and I need a good man in Malta”.

Borg later informed the Commission that he had asked Fipra to insert a new clause in his contract:

“For the whole duration of your obligations under the Code of Conduct for Commissioners, we agree that you will refrain from providing services as consultant to the Company on matters related to the European Union’s integrated maritime policy and common fisheries policy. If it transpires that in the execution of your services on any matter any aspect might be linked to your mandate as Commissioner, the parties bind themselves to inform the Commission and unless and until the Commission’s authorisation is obtained you shall refrain from the further execution of your services in that regard.”

When recently contacted by CEO, Borg told us on 20 November 2013 that:

“I entered into an agreement with FIPRA to provide services to FIPRA as special advisor on the 10 August 2010 after obtaining clearance therefore from the European Commission. Less than three months after, and following resumption of lecturing duties at the University of Malta, I decided to suspend the agreement with FIPRA  and FIPRA accepted. To date the agreement with FIPRA is still suspended. I have never received any remuneration or any other form of compensation whatsoever from FIPRA or any of its clients. I have never contacted the Commission on behalf of FIPRA or any of its clients.”

However, notwithstanding this, on 20 November 2013 Borg was still listed as a special adviser on maritime affairs on Fipra’s website.

The next day (21 November 2013), Borg re-emailed CEO to say:

“Further to my reply of yesterday I would also like to thank you for bringing to my attention the fact that the FIPRA website describes me as “special adviser on maritime affairs”. I had been wanting to write to  FIPRA to inform them that I would like to bring to an end the agreement between them and me  (which, as I told you yesterday, never actually materialized) but I never got down to do so.  I have now just emailed FIPRA informing them that I want our agreement to be definitively terminated with immediate effect and that FIPRA removes my name and any reference to me from their website and from anywhere else my name may appear in FIPRA’s records. I have also just informed the European Commission accordingly.”

Borg’s full emails to CEO can be read here.

In CEO’s view, Borg should have been far more vigilant in ensuring that, if he was no longer a special adviser to Fipra, that he was not advertised as such on the Fipra website. For three years or so, Fipra has benefited from listing Joe Borg as a senior adviser (on maritime affairs which Borg had specifically assured the Commission that he would not work on), when apparently he was not acting as such. But it is perhaps no surprise that Fipra was keen to maintain Borg’s name on its website.

Fipra prides itself on recruiting its staff via the revolving door. Its website claims:

“Many of our staff and Special Advisers have personal experience of having served national governments, parliaments and regulatory bodies, or have held senior positions in industry, trade associations, or consumer organisations. All of them are experts in the political and regulatory process, not least because they have experienced them from many different perspectives at first hand.”

Joe Borg followed several of his former colleagues who moved from DG MARE to Fipra and who also feature on RevolvingDoorWatch. In 2008, John Richardson moved to Fipra after 35 years as a Commission official including three years as the head of the task force which developed the Integrated Maritime Policy for the EU. He is now a Fipra special adviser on maritime policy and diplomacy. Also at Fipra is Nathalie Hesketh who joined in January 2009 as an account manager after nearly four years working at DG MARE including as a member of John Richardson’s task force responsible for developing a maritime policy for the EU, and in the unit responsible for maritime policy development and coordination. Fipra also recruited ex-MEP John Bowis in 2009.

Fipra appears to have a number of maritime-related clients: in 2012 (the most recent year for which the figures are available) RCCL or Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd provided 350,000 to 400,000 of turnover to Fipra and was one of its biggest clients. In 2010, RCCL provided €400,000-€450,000 turnover for Fipra. Other 2012 Fipra clients included the Norweigan Shipowners Association (under €50,000 turnover) and the Municipality of Ventspils (under €50,000 turnover).

Joe Borg, like other ex-commissioners, was entitled to between 40 and 65 per cent of his final basic salary for the three years after he had left office. Borg specifically was entitled to 55 per cent of the €252,269 a year he earned over the five-year term he served as European commissioner and thus received a transitional allowance package of about €11,500 a month before tax, until February 2013. The transitional allowance scheme provides for commissioners to earn up to a further €9000 (approximately) a month from other sources without their pay-out being affected. In CEO’s view, the transitional allowance, the purpose of which was to enable ex-commissioners to not have to seek out immediate new employment, and thus avoid the risk of possible conflicts of interests, clearly needs to be reformed.

For more information see: Revolving door provides privileged access

For more information see: Block the revolving door - why we need to stop EU officials becoming lobbyists

Comment from CEO: 

“This is a very strange revolving door case. The Commission approved Borg’s move to lobby firm Fipra, despite the risk of possible conflicts of interest which could have arisen. Borg maintains that he did not carry out any work for Fipra although he remained listed on Fipra’s website for three years, and his name was only removed when CEO alerted Borg to this fact. Once again we can see how eager lobby consultancies are to recruit through the revolving door - and how relaxed individuals and the EU institutions within the Brussels bubble are about the appearance of possible conflicts of interest.”

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