Another Fine Example of an EU Commissioner – “Racist, Homophobic and in the Pocket of Lobbyists

11th January 2017 / EU

Corporate Europe Observatory joined forces with nine other civil society organisations working for equality, non-discrimination, transparent decision-making and strong ethics rules, urging the European Parliament in an open letter to oppose Commissioner Oettinger’s appointment as the Comission’s head of human resources (supervising the EU budget and managing the Human Resources of the European Commission).

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.

The series of racist, sexist and homophobic remarks which Oettinger made in his role as EU Commissioner at an event in October last year, has clearly shown that he is unfit to lead a department that is so crucial for ensuring equality, non-discrimination and ethics within and across the large body of Commission staff.

Remarks such as his caricature of a Chinese official delegation as “slitty-eyed rascals” who were “nine men, one party, no democracy”, all with “hair combed from left to right with black shoe polish” may seem funny to some but given the role, is wholly inappropriate. In another outburst, Mr Oettinger was scornfully speaking about the EU’s battle to get Belgian approval for the landmark CETA trade deal with Canada and referred to the agenda consisting of “mothers’ pensions, minimum pensions, pensions at 63, welfare payments… and soon it’ll be compulsory gay marriages“. Belgium’s Le Soir newspaper quoted Mr Oettinger as saying “a micro-region run by Communists that blocks the whole of Europe – that’s unacceptable“. Criticism sprang from all corners of the political spectrum with broad agreement that he was “someone who openly spreads racist and homophobic opinions (that) disqualifies himself from top political posts”.

There are additional concerns over opaque interactions Commissioner Oettinger has had with lobbyists. According to Oettinger’s meetings list, he has failed to keep any appropriate balance in his consultation of stakeholders: over 90% of his meetings were with corporate lobbyists.

As if that wasn’t enough, Oettinger in 2016 also accepted a flight in the private jet of an unregistered lobbyist – who incidentally accompanied him on the trip. The details of this flight are still unclear but Commissioner Oettinger has potentially broken ethics rules by accepting a meeting with an unregistered lobbyist and, further, failing to disclose this meeting.

Next Monday, 9 January 2016, Commissioner Oettinger will attend a Parliament hearing regarding his suitability to take over the Budget and Human Resources portfolio at the Commission – an “exchange of views” that presents the final ‘hurdle’ on his way into the role.

Civil society organisations are now asking the Parliament to reject his appointment as supervising the EU and head of human resources, as his track record has clearly shown that he is a highly inappropriate candidate for the position.

The responsibility to ensure a safe, non-discriminatory and non-threatening working environment for employees, and to implement transparency and ethics rules across the Commission’s staff must not be placed in the hands of somebody who has so grossly disregarded these notions himself.

Read the full letter here.


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