The Scandal of the EU Commission and their Revolving Doors

11th August 2016 / EU

By Corporate Europe Observatory – The Goldman Sachs employment of former EU Commission President Barroso has placed the EU’s revolving door problem firmly on the political agenda. Although many former EU commissioners have taken up compromising roles with big business before, this is the first revolving door scandal involving an ex-Commission President, a development that has angered citizens, NGOs, EU governments and staff at the EU institutions alike.

Before what is now known as the Barroso scandal, more than one third of commissioners from the former Barroso Commission that existed for ten years from 2004 to 2014 had already taken up roles in corporations or other organisations with links to big business. These new roles were all authorised by the Commission.

Since May 2016 (when the period during which ex-commissioners were obliged to seek authorisation for new roles ended), several Barroso commissioners have moved into highly controversial new roles. Apart from Barroso moving to Goldman Sachs, ex-trade commissioner Karel De Gucht joined the board of mining giant Arcelor Mittal, and former digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes has joined the boards of tech firms Uber and Salesforce.

To keep up public pressure and ensure that the European Commission responds to the public outcry by sorting out its revolving door problem once and for all, the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) and European campaigning organisation WeMove.EU today launched a petition calling for stricter regulation of ex-EU officials’ career moves once they’ve left office. Demands include:

  • a minimum three-year ban for any commissioner on taking up new roles which risk a conflict of interest or involve any lobbying activity;

  • the establishment of a fully independent and transparent ethics committee with the power to investigate and decide upon ex-EU officials’ career moves, and to sanction them if rules are broken.

The petitioners are also calling for Barroso’s entitlement to a generous European Commission pension to be removed.

On behalf of ALTER-EU, Corporate Europe Observatory’s transparency campaigner Vicky Cann said:

“Barroso has really surpassed previous revolving door scandals by joining a bank that is so controversial, considering its role in the 2008 financial crisis and its lobbying against EU financial regulation. No wonder that citizens, MEPs, the French government and EU institution staff have found this so hard to stomach. The EU’s revolving door really undermines public interest decision-making. Former EU top dogs may no longer be working in politics, but they know the EU institutions inside out and will know exactly which strings to pull in favour of their new bosses.”

For European campaigning organisation WeMove.EU, Olga Vuković said:

“The WeMove.EU community is campaigning for a more democratic and transparent European Union, a Union where decisions are not dominated by the interests of large corporations. It is high-time for stricter rules to regulate post-Commission careers. So far, the European Commission’s response to Barroso joining one of the most controversial financial institutions, and other cases like it, has been really disappointing.”

The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) is a coalition of more than 200 public interest groups and trade unions concerned with the increasing influence exerted by corporate lobbyists on the political agenda in Europe

WeMove.EU is a European movement promoting citizen-led democracy via a wide range of campaigns in the areas of social and economic justice, civil rights and liberties, environmental sustainability and democratic governance.

CorporateEurope.OrgExposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

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