Conflicts of interest can also occur through revolving door cases of Members of Parliament, Commissioners or civil servants taking up new jobs in the private sector. Brussels has seen a number of high-profile revolving door cases in the last years, including ex-Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso’s move to Goldman Sachs in 2014. The high demand for policy insiders, particularly among lobby organisations, requires strong ethical safeguards against undue influence. The exchange of knowledge, experience, and personnel between the public and private sector can bring very positive results by providing a better understanding of how political decision-making works. However, the revolving door can also undermine trust in the EU, because of the potential for real or perceived conflicts of interest. It can reinforce the public perception that links between the EU institutions and big business are too close.
In early 2017, Transparency International EU (TI EU) published a report analysing 512 former EU Commissioners and MEPs and their after-office employment. We found that more than 50% of ex-Commissioners and 30% of ex-MEPs who have left politics were working for organisations on the EU lobby register. Our report showed that companies are employing former officials to gain access, influence and proximity to policy-making. While the Juncker Commission made advances in regulating the revolving door, the rules are still poorly enforced. As for the European Parliament, it still has no post-mandate employment rules for MEPs, creating serious ethical risks to the political integrity of the institution.
TI EU calls for stronger post-employment rules for the Commission and the Parliament. Longer cooling-off periods, tighter restrictions on lobbying of EU institutions, as well as a well-resourced oversight system.
For further details on our work on revolving doors:
– 2017 Report on the revolving door phenomenon
– Recommendations for the reform of the European Parliament Code of Conduct
– Recommendations for the reform of the European Commission Code of Conduct
– Online tool EU Integrity Watch tool tracking post-employment activities of former Commissioners and MEPs