Revolving doors: Campaigners file complaint with EU Commission

Campaigners have sent a complaint to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker about his handling of the “revolving door” moves of several former Commissioners.

Neelie Kroes | Photo credit: European Commission audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

30 Sep 2016

The letter, sent by the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (Alter-EU), criticises the perceived delay in the Commission’s action regarding former President José Manuel Barroso’s move to Goldman Sachs International and alleges maladministration regarding the “inaction” on the job moves by ex-Commissioners Neelie Kroes and Karel De Gucht.

The group also demands “urgent” action to revise the code of conduct for Commissioners, and to sanction Kroes, the Dutch official, for the revelations in the recent Bahamas Leaks.

Alter-EU also lodged a formal complaint of maladministration regarding the appointment of two Commission special advisers to the ad-hoc ethical committee.


Vicky Cann from Corporate Europe Observatory said: “The Commission’s summer of scandals has shown that the revolving door between the EU institutions and the private sector is a real threat to the integrity of the institutions. And MEPs, civil society and citizens are quickly losing patience with the Commission’s approach to this issue.

“Action on Barroso’s move to Goldman Sachs International has been glacially slow, while we there has been no action whatsoever on Kroes’ and De Gucht’s revolving doors moves. 

“At the same time, the July 2016 decision by the college of Commissioners to appoint two of its own special advisers to its ethics committee defies belief.

“When there are breaches of the rules or the treaties, swift sanctions must follow. Commissioners’ ethics rules must be overhauled and decision making on these matters must be taken out of the hands of the Commission and given to a truly independent body. Such steps are essential if the EU’s executive hopes to mend its battered reputation.”

Meanwhile, Inge Gräßle, who chairs Parliament’s budgetary control committee, agreed that the code of conduct for Commissioners should be mandatory and not voluntary.

The German MEP called for more accountability and consistency in the code.

She said these rules should also be applied to the ad-hoc ethics committee, which takes the final decision on suitable jobs for former Commissioners, up to 18 months following their departure from the Commission. 

“It is time to have truly independent members on this committee, rather than those prepared to accept that Commissioners hold other posts while still receiving transition funds”, said Gräßle. 

“The total lack of transparency of this body is a decades-old stumbling block. It is unacceptable and against international standards.”

The budgetary control committee this week unanimously called or a tightening up of the code.

In an opinion report voted on Thursday, the committee asked for a longer cooling-off period of 24 months instead of 18; the disclosure of all assets and liabilities of the Commissioners over €10,000, including those of dependent family members, and standardising the declarations of interest of the Commissioners.

“Reading the explanations of the current code is already amazing as it would appear that a long political career has no consequence in accumulating financial assets,” said Gräßle. 

The committee said it “regrets” that there is no requirement for Commissioners to sell stocks related to the policy area for which they are responsible. 

The code, said members, should also specify clear application rules for the President of the Commission.

“The cleanest solution would be a Commissioner act, which would integrate the code of conduct, making its application mandatory and not, as currently, voluntary”, Gräßle said.


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