Transparency campaigners voice concern over Oettinger appointment

Written by Martin Banks on 5 January 2017 in News

German commissioner unsuitable and unfit to supervise EU budget and human resources portfolio say campaigners.

Campaigners are urging MEPs to oppose Oettinger being given the new portfolio | Photo Credit: European Commission

Transparency campaigners have voiced concern at plans to allocate controversial EU commissioner Günther Oettinger the role of supervising the EU budget and managing human resources.

The alliance says the German official, who is at the centre of an ongoing furore over transparency rules, is “unsuitable” and “unfit” for the role.

Oettinger, currently EU digital commissioner, is set to take over the new dossier and will be questioned later this month by MEPs about his qualifications for the post but will not face a formal confirmation vote.

The campaigners have now urged Parliament to oppose Oettinger being given the new portfolio.


Normally, commissioners are subject to a confirmation hearing in front of MEPs before they are allowed to take up their post but Oettinger will merely be "questioned".

The German politician, who is also a former EU energy commissioner, has caused controversy with what were widely perceived to be provocative statements about gay marriage and Chinese people.

He was also in the news at the end of 2016 because of revelations that he flew on a lobbyist’s private plane last spring to an official meeting in Budapest.

Campaigners have now written letters to all MEPs voicing concern about Oettinger’s proposed new role.

The signatures include ILGA-Europe; the European Women’s Lobby; Transparency International EU; European Network Against Racism; Corporate Europe Observatory; IPPF European Network; Oxfam International EU Advocacy Office (Oxfam International); Volonteurope; Stichting ERGO Network (ERGO) and Lobbycontrol.

The letter says, “As organisations working towards equality, non-discrimination and campaigning for transparency and ethics, we do not think that Oettinger is suitable to oversee human resources at the European Commission.

“Oettinger has made racist, sexist and homophobic remarks on several occasions in the past, most recently at a speech he gave in an official capacity in Hamburg on 26 October.

“At this crucial moment for the EU, it is more vital than ever to have a strong and credible commitment from the European Commission to counter discrimination and act for equality for all.”

The letter goes on, “The commissioner in charge of human resources must lead by example. He or she should have clear plans for action to make equality for all a reality and speak out against racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and transphobia.

“How else would they be expected to inspire others to do the same? In our view, Oettinger is not the right person for this task.

“The commissioner responsible for human resources is also tasked with the supervision and enforcement of transparency and ethics rules, including the provisions of the EU staff regulations on revolving doors.

“Protecting the integrity of EU civil servants and the commission as a whole demands setting high standards in personal integrity. This is especially true now as the commission is still dealing with the aftermath of a string of ethics scandals involving former commissioners.”

It continues, “Oettinger has repeatedly attracted criticism over his way of interacting with lobbyists. Evidence shows that Oettinger has not been proactive in pursuing an inclusive and balanced approach to stakeholder consultation as almost 90% of his meetings have been with corporate interest groups.

“This is the highest percentage of any commissioner, and is contrary to Jean-Claude Juncker's instruction to the team of commissioners to ensure balanced stakeholder representation.

“On top of this, there have been repeated media reports of undisclosed meetings, most recently when Oettinger met with the unregistered German lobbyist Klaus Mangold during a flight on a private jet to Budapest in May 2016. To this day it remains unclear what the exact circumstances of this flight have been and if he broke ethics and/or transparency rules.

“In our view, Oettinger is unfit to inspire compliance with existing ethics and transparency rules among commission staff and his peers.”

Oettinger was not immediately available for comment.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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