N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has launched a wide-ranging inquiry into how the European Commission handles so-called ‘revolving doors’ cases amongst its staff. Civil servants with regulatory expertise move to the private sector where their knowledge and networks have significant commercial and other value. The inquiry is part of a reinforced monitoring of how the EU administration implements the ethics of EU staff obligations for those who move to the private sector.
The Ombudsman has already carried out several inquiries related to the revolving door, including one concerning the European Banking Authority and one concerning the European Defence Agency. Ms O’Reilly has also asked the Commission to ensure compliance with the conditions it drew up when it approved former Commissioner Oettinger’s new role at a communications consultancy, which has a large tobacco company as one of its clients.
The inquiry will inspect 100 personnel files related to decisions by the Commission on requests by senior and mid-level managers for approval of either new employment or of unpaid leave in order to undertake another lucrative activity. The files cover a total of 14 Directorate-Generals in addition to all (!) Commission cabinets, the Commission Legal Service, Secretariat-General and the Regulatory Scrutiny Board.
‘Robust management of revolving doors is important for maintaining trust in the EU institutions. The potential corrosive effect of unchecked revolving doors is underestimated’, Ms O’Reilly writes. ‘There should be more awareness in the EU administration of the impression this makes on the public. That understanding is not yet there’.
The public is quite well aware anyway that eurocrats are substantially overpaid compared to their colleagues at national level; and that in addition they hardly have to pay any income tax.