NGO coalition calls for creation of Enforcement Czar to stem EU’s ‘revolving door’ job moves

Financial reform group looking to end damage to EU’s reputation.
Revolving doors

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

12 Oct 2020

Some 29 civil society organisations have demanded that the European Commission close loopholes on so-called “revolving doors” rules.

It follows the recent case investigated by the European Ombudsman regarding Adam Farkas, the former Director of the European Banking Authority, who left his post to become Chief Executive of a powerful finance lobby group (AFME).

An alliance of NGOs is arguing that despite the ombudsman’s intervention and a European Parliament resolution asking the European Commission to strengthen its rules on revolving doors “the problem is not fundamentally solved.”

Revolving doors between EU institutions and lobby groups have, say the NGOs, “damaged the reputation of the EU way too often and for much too long.”

They say that from the Commission's directorate for financial affairs, for instance, four of five former directors now work for the financial sector.

The groups have joined forces to appeal to the commission because they “see a need to strengthen the existing rules as well as their enforcement.”

The plea comes in a letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Executive Vice-Presidents Valdis Dombrovskis and Frans Timmermans, and Vice-President Vera Jourová.

"Officials moving to organisations that lobby the very same institution they had worked for is a sad tradition in the EU. The European Parliament has strongly criticised it, the Ombudswoman has reproached it and civil society has spoken out against it numerous times" The Change Finance coalition's Jana Leutner

It reads, “We argue it is necessary to sharpen the staff regulations in at least three ways: make the existing possibility to forbid a job move an obligation, when a conflict of interest cannot be ruled out; extend the rules for a lobby ban period to avoid undue lobbying to two and three years for senior officials and presidents or executive directors respectively and reform the rules so that an authorisation granted for a job move can be reversed if rules have not been complied with properly.”

They call for the creation of an independent body to supervise and enforce the rules on revolving doors within the institutions. The 29 NGOs also want the executive to”duly enforce the rules” on post-public employment within the Commission and in all EU agencies.

The letter notes that EU staff regulations forbid job moves by officials of the EU institutions to engage in lobbying.

Jana Leutner, from the Change Finance coalition, said, "Officials moving to organisations that lobby the very same institution they had worked for is a sad tradition in the EU. The European Parliament has strongly criticised it, the Ombudswoman has reproached it and civil society has spoken out against it numerous times.

"What else has to happen? It's high time for the Commission to make sure that the independence of EU decision making is no longer compromised and revolving doors are finally stopped across all EU institutions."

Change Finance is a civil society network that advocates for reforms of the financial sector. During the 2019 elections 78 MEPs signed a pledge to distance themselves from the financial lobby.

Further comment comes from Kenneth Haar, a researcher at Corporate Europe Observatory, who said, "What we are seeing in the European Banking Authority is a culture that has brought senior officials and finance lobbyists close together. Considering that the institution supervises the biggest banks in Europe, this is unsustainable, unhealthy and needs to be dealt with urgently.”

“Stronger ethics rules is part of the answer to the kind of corporate capture we are facing in this area."

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