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Martin Callanan

Former employer: 
European Parliament
Former function: 
Member of European Parliament (for 15 years)
New function: 
Consultant
New employer: 
Symphony Environmental Technologies
Nationality: 
UK
Policy area: 
Date of Revolving Door: 
November, 2014
Institutional reaction: 

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

Other info: 

Martin Callanan MEP was a conservative MEP and the leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, the third largest in the European Parliament, until July 2014; he lost his seat in the May elections. He had been a member of the committee on the environment, public health and food safety where he produced numerous reports as rapporteur or shadow rapporteur. Since then he has been made a member of the UK's second chamber, the House of Lords. Callanan was frequently criticised for his close contacts to industry lobbyists, in particular the car industry.

In November it was announced that Callanan would become a consultant to the Symphony Environmental Technologies Group. Symphony's website says that it “specializes in developing and marketing a wide range of plastic products and other environmental technologies, and operates worldwide”.

Symphony’s CEO Michael Laurier said

“Symphony’s Board is delighted that Lord Callanan has joined us, and we all look forward to working with him. … his international experience, and service on the Environment Committee of the European Parliament will be of great benefit to the Company.”

Martin Callanan said

“I was pleased to be asked to join the Symphony Environmental Technologies Group. I look forward to working with them to bring the benefits of their technologies to Europe and the wider world, and to raise awareness in the UK of the contribution which this British company is making to the UK economy and to public health and environmental protection worldwide. In particular, their oxo-biodegradable plastic technology needs to be better understood in Europe. It does not just cause the plastic to fragment, but converts it at the end of its service-life into biodegradable materials.”

However, the environmental performance about oxo-degradable plastics is mixed to say the least. A 2010 study commissioned by the UK's department for environment, food and rural affairs (DEFRA) reported that oxo-degradable plastics are not compostable according to established international standards and are not suitable for recycling with mainstream plastics. Meanwhile, the EU Commission green paper on plastic waste in the environment (March 2013) reports that oxo-degradable plastics might risk contributing to the microplastics load reaching the marine environment and therefore might significantly increase the risk of ingestion by animals. Finally, the fastened fragmentation of oxo-biodegradable plastic means that the life expectancy of the product is reduced which translates into higher plastic consumption.

Plastic bag ban?

In November 2014, Margrete Auken, a Danish MEP who had been pushing for a ban on oxo-biodegradable plastic bags, accused Symphony of using its links to the UK Conservative-led government to orchestrate a blocking minority against her bag ban in the EU Council of Ministers.

EurActiv reported that Auken had told reporters

“We’re faced with a situation where the UK Tory government is fighting hard to defend a minute, UK based company with strong Tory ties. A company that offers an absurd technology that creates direct environmental problems, but also indirect ones such as recycling and composting.”

Since 1999, the board of Symphony has been chaired by Nirj Deva, another conservative MEP, who is the subject of significant NGO criticism for his external financial interests. Symphony board deputy chairman Michael Stephen (himself a former Tory MP) told EurActiv:

“She’s shown her colours. We don’t think the European Parliament should choose people like her to be rapporteurs. When we heard about this attack, [the ban] we had to defend ourselves. We asked our own government, the UK government, to look into the matter.”

In the end Margrete Auken said she was thankful that the Commission decided not to obstruct the finalising of the legislation.

Symphony is not listed in the EU's (voluntary) lobby register although it is registered as a client of FleishmanHillard. According to his listing in the House of Lords register of members' interests as well as information held by Companies House in the UK, Callanan has set up a company called MC Associates (Europe) Ltd. His clients additionally include: EUTOP (a Berlin-based lobby agency which is not in the EU lobby register but which claims: "Our work is tailored to the European decision-making structures and processes in all their commercial, cultural and political diversity. EUTOP has had a strong network of contacts among political decision-makers in Brussels and selected EU member states for more than 20 years") and the ECR group in the European Parliament. MC Associates (Europe) Ltd is not registered with the EU lobby register.

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”.

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.

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.

Before publishing this profile, CEO contacted Martin Callanan (via the House of Lords and Symphony) for his response; none was received.

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.

Comment from CEO: 

“This is a pretty shocking revolving door case which once again illustrates how urgently the European Parliament needs to develop some conflict of interest rules for departing MEPs. There is a clear link between Martin Callanan's membership of the European parliament's environment committee and his new work for Symphony, as the comments by the company's CEO make clear.”

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