The Commission did not screen Gabrielsson for conflicts of interest when he took up his post as a tobacco lobbyist. Gabrielsson was apparently a 'contract agent' which meant that he was not required to go through the 'revolving door' rules as he was deemed to have not had access to sensitive information. CEO considers that this is a major loophole in the rules.
Johan Gabrielsson was a "Project Manager - EU Policies from 01.02.2005 to 31.01.2010" in the European Commission's DG Enlargement (according to the Commission, via an access to documents request), working as a contract agent. He has been employed as Public Affairs Director at tobacco company Swedish Match since October 2011 (according to Gabrielsson's Linkedin page). Under the Staff Regulations, EU staff have a two year notification and screening period when they leave the Commission. But because DG Enlargement considered that Gabrielsson had not had access to "sensitive information" during his time with the Commission, he was exempted from the rules. Thus there has been no screening of potential conflicts of interest or permission given for Gabrielsson's new job as a tobacco lobbyist.
Background on Swedish Match and Johan Gabriellson's role in Dalligate
Johan Gabrielsson's revolving door case came to light in the wake of the tobacco lobby scandal surrounding the resignation of former health Commissioner John Dalli in October 2012. and which began with a complaint made by Swedish Match. The Dalligate scandal began with a complaint from Swedish Match to the European Commission, alleging that Silvio Zammit, a Maltese acquaintance of Dalli, offered to arrange meetings with Dalli, to achieve a reversal of the EU ban on snus, in return for €60 million. Dalli himself denies knowledge of this, and despite claiming the investigation had “unambiguous circumstantial evidence” that he did, the leaked OLAF report in fact shows no proof of this. A Maltese court case against Zammit is ongoing, but regardless of the outcome, it is clear from Swedish Match's statements and interaction with the European Parliament, that Swedish Match engaged in inappropriate lobbying behaviour in two ways.
First, Swedish Match sought access to persons with private contacts with Dalli, to get better access to him and influence over his decisions. After failing to achieve their lobbying goals via appropriate procedures in Brussels (e.g. responding to Commission public consultations, meeting officials, including in Dalli's cabinet), Swedish Match sent Johan Gabrielsson to Malta to facilitate contacts with friends and acquaintances of the Commissioner, and ultimately with Dalli himself. Infringing on the personal sphere of a Commissioner in this way, in pursuit of lobbying goals, is, CEO believes, inappropriate behaviour in the context of lobbying.
Second, Swedish Match employed Gayle Kimberley, a Maltese lawyer, to engage in interest representation work, including to meet with Commissioner Dalli. Kimberley is not in the Transparency Register, thus enabling Swedish Match, a signatory of the register and bound by its code, to circumvent the requirements for transparency. This is inappropriate behaviour for a registered lobbyist who has committed to be bound by the rules of the Transparency Register.
On the basis of these activities, CEO submitted a complaint about Swedish Match to the lobby register secretariat in May 2013, which at the time of writing (June 2013) has been accepted but delayed indefinitely.
It is also of interest to note that in the leaked OLAF investigation report about the Dalli case, it is documented that Swedish Match asked their lobby consultancy Kreab Gavin Anderson to help them recruit a former EU official to help them in their lobbying, which is how they came to employ Mr Gabrielsson:
“GABRIELSSON was recruited through a Swedish network, KREAB, a Swedish consultancy firm... Swedish Match was looking for someone with good knowledge of work within the EU institutions. We approached GABRIELSSON, he did not come to us.” - Written record of interview between OLAF and Mr Patrick Hildingsson, Vice President Group Public Affairs, Chairman of ESTOC. p38
This demonstrates how profitable lobby groups find the revolving door – and indicates that lobby consultancies even advise on and help recruit suitable revolving door cases for particular companies or groups.
Mr Gabrielsson declined to make any comment, when contacted by CEO in May 2013, about the details of his job move.
“It is absolutely remarkable that the Commission did not screen Johan Gabrielsson for his job move to tobacco company Swedish Match, especially in light of all the dodgy lobbying tactics that Swedish Match has been engaged in, as revealed in the wake of the Dalligate lobby scandal. Gabrielsson himself met another revolving door case, former European Council lawyer Gayle Kimberley, in Malta, in order to facilitate contacts, using personal connections, with former Commissioner John Dalli.
The revolving door has cropped up as a key feature in the tobacco lobby scandal nicknamed “Dalligate”. CEO believes that an automatic cooling-off period of two years on corporate lobby jobs should be enacted for all EU institution staff, including contract agents like Gabrielsson, and that restrictions on tobacco lobby jobs, which are restricted for public health officials, under the UN's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, should be extended for all public officials. This is because the tobacco industry gains inside knowledge about how the institutions work, as well as valuable contacts, not only by hiring former health officials, but former public officials in any policy area.”