Today the European Commission published names of several senior officials who have left the Commission for new jobs in the private, academic and voluntary sectors after an inquiry into revolving doors by the EU Ombudsman. Transparency International EU joins the Ombudsman in welcoming the publication of these names, but emphasises the need for the regular scrutiny of potential revolving door cases and adoption of harmonised standards to mitigate potential conflicts of interest across the EU institutions.
The term revolving door refers to the movement of individuals between positions in the public sector and jobs in private organisations in the same field, in either direction. Transparency International recommends that all EU countries and institutions establish or amend minimum “cooling-off periods” between former public and elected officials can work in lobbying positions which may be seen to create conflicts of interest.
“While the Commission has made some progress in stopping the revolving door from spinning, more must be done across the EU institutions. At present there are no rules whatsoever for MEPs after they leave office,” according to Carl Dolan, Director of Transparency International EU. “We welcome the publication of the names of former officials, but the Commission and other EU institutions must go further to ensure that potential conflicts of interest are minimised,” continued Dolan, “the independence of oversight committees must be strengthened”.
The Commission has stated it will publish the names of relevant officials once a year, which is the legal minimum timeframe required. However Transparency International EU recommends that this information be made public on a more regular basis to ensure proper and appropriate scrutiny of potential conflicts of interest by the public, civil society and the press.
At present the standards governing cooling off period vary across the institutions from 18 months for Commissioners to three years for members of the European Court of Justice. There are no post-term obligations for MEPs. In comparison, standard 5 year cooling-off periods apply to senior civil servants, members of parliament and government ministers in Canada.