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Karin Riis-Jørgensen

Former employer: 
European Parliament
Former function: 
Member of European Parliament (for 15 years)
New function: 
Senior advisor
New employer: 
Kreab Gavin Anderson
Nationality: 
Denmark
Policy area: 
Institutional reaction: 

None. There is no regulation requiring former MEPs to seek authorisation for their subsequent professional activities.

Other info: 

Riis-Jørgensen was an MEP for 15 years until she stepped down in May 2009; during this time she sat on the committee for internal market and consumer protection, amongst others.

In 2009, Riis-Jørgensen became a senior advisor at the major Brussels lobby firm Kreab Gavin Anderson. On Riis-Jørgensen's appointment, Georg Danell, managing partner of Kreab Gavin Anderson Brussels said: “We are very happy to see Karin Riis-Jørgensen join our group of Senior Advisors, and we believe that her extensive knowledge of the EU’s political scene will be a great asset to our clients.”

Kreab is one of Brussels' biggest lobby consultancies with an annual lobby turnover of nearly four million euros. Its clients in 2012 (the most recent year for which information is available on the EU Transparency Register) include: Google, EDF, UBS, Goldman Sachs and Scania.

CEO is concerned about the risk of conflicts of interest when MEPs go to work for lobby consultancies, especially if they use their insider knowledge and network of contacts gained whilst in public office, to then benefit their corporate clients.

One of Riis-Jørgensen's clients at Kreab is Swedish Match, the controversial tobacco company which in 2012 was a central player in the Dalligate scandal. On 16 March 2011 and 6 March 2012, Riis-Jørgensen, together with Swedish Match's public affairs director Cecilia Kindstrand-Isaksson, met with representatives from the European Commission's Secretariat General to discuss the review of the tobacco products directive.

Riis-Jørgensen has told CEO that “I now use my experience to advise Kreab and some of their clients on how to create a dialogue with EU decision-makers”. When asked about her work as a lobbyist and whether this constitutes a potential conflict of interest considering her background as an MEP, Riis-Jørgensen said:

“I have an independent role as Senior Advisor and can choose where and when I want to be involved … I have not come across anything suggesting a conflict of interest in my role as Senior Advisor at Kreab.”

Her full response can be read here.

Riis-Jørgensen is also the founder and chairwoman (unpaid) of the European Privacy Association (EPA), a Brussels-based lobby group. The EPA defends the interests of large IT corporations in the ongoing lobby battle around new EU rules for data privacy.

Following an official complaint submitted to the EU Transparency Register in 2013 by Corporate Europe Observatory, the EPA updated its entry in the EU's lobby transparency register. CEO had complained to the register secretariat about the EPA's failure to disclose its industry members (and funders), in violation of the rules of the transparency register. An article in the Financial Times last year on astroturfing (which the article describes as “setting up what is essentially a fake grass-roots interest group”) prominently featured the European Privacy Association. The EPA subsequently denied this claim.

The rules in the European Parliament

The current revolving door rules for MEPs are so weak as to be virtually non-existent.

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”.

However, there is no process to monitor or enforce this part of the code and ensure that former MEPs do not use their lifelong access pass for lobbying purposes. Riis-Jørgensen has told CEO that she does use her former-MEP access pass to gain entry to the European parliament and that, as of February 2014, she had not applied for a separate lobbyists' pass.

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. 

Comment from CEO: 

“There are currently no robust rules governing the revolving door for former MEPs and CEO regrets this. As a result, too many MEPs like Karin Riis-Jørgensen enter corporate lobby consultancy jobs and there is a risk of conflicts of interest arising."

 

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