Revolving door scandal - call for three-year cooling off period

Publication date: 
Monday, September 27, 2010
Press release issued by: 
The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU)

New documents obtained by ALTER-EU reveal the inadequate checks carried out by the Commission when former Commissioners take employment in the private sector. ALTER-EU calls for an urgent overhaul of the rules with a three-year cooling off period for ex-Commissioners

Brussels, 27 September 2010 – The ALTER-EU civil society coalition today called for the introduction of three-year cooling-off period for former Commissioners, and urged the EU Commission to block the new jobs for former Commissioners Charlie McCreevy and Günter Verheugen because of conflicts of interest.

Following the controversy surrounding six former EU Commissioners who have taken up employment in the private sector[1], the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation in the EU (ALTER-EU) today published documents showing that the European Commission’s existing checks are inadequate and fail to prevent conflicts of interest.

ALTER-EU is calling on the Commission to re-examine the current employment of ex-Commissioners Verheugen, McCreevy, and the four others, and to swiftly introduce a stricter Code of Conduct for Commissioners, including a three-year cooling-off period during which former Commissioners are not allowed to take up any post that might constitute a conflict of interest with their former work.

Internal Commission documents obtained under freedom of information rules and published by ALTER-EU today (  reveal the procedures used to approve the new posts for former Commissioners,  Verheugen, Joe Borg and Benita Ferrero-Waldner. The documents show that the process, carried out primarily by an Ad-hoc Ethical Committee, is superficial and lacks any serious assessment of possible conflicts of interest. Statements from ex-Commissioners appear to have been accepted without any further investigation.

Paul de Clerck from ALTER-EU commented:
 “The Ethical committee is not doing its job properly. It accepted ex-Commissioner Verheugen's claim that his job at the Royal Bank of Scotland does not involve lobbying, yet RBS clearly stated that they hired Verheugen for his experience and contacts in European politics. We need a better system here”.

Last week, ALTER-EU launched an online petition, calling on the Commission to block Verheugen’s involvement in the lobby firm European Experience Company, the latest of five private sector jobs taken up by Verheugen after leaving the Commission in February[2].

ALTER-EU also sees a clear risk of conflict of interest in the case of Benita Ferrero-Waldner who has taken jobs with Munich Re and Gamesa (both companies that are involved in the Desertec energy project)[3] and in the latest position taken by ex-Commissioner Charles McCreevy (Commissioner for Internal Market 2004-2010) who last month joined the board of NBNK Investments PLC, an investment company which aims to buy banking assets that are being sold off after the financial crisis. McCreevy's salary will reportedly be between 61,000 and 122,000 euro per year depending on NBNK achieving a major acquisition. McCreevy is reported to hold 20,000 shares in the company [4]. It is unclear whether McCreevy has informed the Commission about this new job.

Olivier Hoedeman, also from ALTER_EU said:
“McCreevy's latest job move violates the existing Code of Conduct as the activities of NBNK clearly relate to the content of McCreevy's portfolio when he was Commissioner..

While at the Commission, McCreevy, who was responsible for developing EU banking regulations, was repeatedly criticised by Members of the European Parliament for failing to impose strict regulations on the financial sector.

“It looks bad when the Commissioner responsible for regulating the financial sector then takes up employment in that same sector,” Hoedeman said.

Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso promised more than a year ago that the Commission would review its Code of Conduct[5]. The string of recent scandals shows that further delay in upgrading the Code of Conduct is unacceptable.


Olivier Hoedeman, Corporate Europe Observatory (EN, NL) Tel : +32 4 7448 6545  +32 2 893 0930

Paul de Clerck, Friends of the Earth Europe (EN, NL, FR) Tel : +32 494380959

Nina Katzemich, LobbyControl (EN, DE) Tel.: +49 221 1696507  / +49 179 5093022

Notes to the Editor:
[1] The six ex-Commissioners are Benita Ferrero-Waldner (Munich Re and Gamesa), Meglena Kuneva (BNP Paribas), Günter Verheugen (RBS, lobby consultancy Fleishman Hillard, European Experience Company, the Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges and a German banking lobby group), Charlie McCreevy (NBNK and Ryanair), Joe Borg (lobby consultancy FIPRA) and Lous Michel (Credimo).

[2] 3500 citizens have so far participated in the online petition:

[3]The Dutch daily De Volkskrant  highlighted on Friday that the Commission's Ethical Committee seems to have overlooked serious problems when approving ex-commissioner Ferrero-Waldner's jobs earlier this year. Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the Commissioner for external relations, had since 2009 heavily backed the Mediterranean Solar Plan, part of the larger Desertec plan, intended to provide electricity to Europe via mega-scale solar and wind power investments in North Africa. Ferrero-Waldner has now taken up paid board positions in Munich Re and Gamesa, key players in Desertec. Documents published today by ALTER-EU show that the Commission’s Ethics Committee assessing her jobs seems to have missed all this, concluding that "the job has no link with the former portfolio of the Commissioner."


[4]“McCreevy's €4bn corporate raider eyes AIB UK“,, September 19 2010

[5] Commission President Barroso made the promise to MEPs in September 2009. ALTER-EU wrote to the Commission in November 2009 and May 2010 calling for a swift review of the Code of Conduct and the introduction of a cooling-off period to prevent ex-Commissioner from moving into jobs with conflicts of interest. On 17 May 2010, ALTER-EU wrote to President Barroso, and Commissioners Sefcovic and Semeta to raise concernes about potential conflicts of interest for former Commissioners

On 24 November 2009, ALTER-EU sent a letter to Commission President Barroso, asking him to address conflicts of interest in the revision of the code of conduct for EU Commissioners;