By Martin Banks - 19th May 2010
There has to be more transparency in this area
The European commission has been urged to review its rules for approving ex-commissioners moving to jobs in industry.
A coalition of Brussels-based NGOs says the executive's current code of conduct is "inadequate" and needs strengthening.
The group, ALTER-EU, also calls for a "clear definition" of where there might be potential conflict of interest when a former commissioner moves to a job in the private sector.
It goes on to recommend a "substantial cooling-off" period of at least three years before an EU commissioner is allowed to move to a private sector post.
Its spokesperson Natacha Cingotti told this website on Wednesday, "Clearly, there has to be more transparency in this area."
The coalition, which includes Friends of the Earth Europe, has written to the commission expressing "concern" about four ex-commissioners that, it says, "have gone through the revolving door" into industry posts since February this year.
In particular, it focuses on the case of Günter Verheugen, the former commission vice president who, until recently, was responsible for the EU's industry and enterprise portfolio.
According to media reports, the German, one of the most senior former members of José Manuel Barroso's previous commission team, has moved to the UK's Royal Bank of Scotland.
The group has asked the commission not to approve his move. It claims the Royal Bank of Scotland has stated his experience in European politics and his national and international contacts are of "great value" for the bank.
The letter says, "All four cases – Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Meglena Kuneva, Günter Verheugen and Charlie McCreevy - involve very obvious potential conflicts of interest.
"The transfers of Ferrero-Waldner, Kuneva and McCreevy were seemingly approved without any serious conditions or restrictions being imposed.
"Verheugen did not even alert the commission about his transfer to the Royal Bank of Scotland before it was announced by the bank on April 28, which in itself could be considered as a violation of the code of conduct for commissioners."
Cingotti said, "The integrity and credibility of the commission are at stake.
"We believe the introduction of a mandatory three-year cooling-off period for post-employment for commissioners is now an urgent necessity.
"The commission has argued in some instances that the commissioner in question was not directly responsible for matters affecting the new employer.
"Considering that all decisions taken by the college of commissioners are collective decisions, we are of the opinion that all the commissioners concerned were involved in making decisions on issues that are highly relevant to their new employers."
She said there were "many reasons" why a cooling off period is "imperative."
"So many ex-commissioners rushing into industry jobs raises questions about the ability of commissioners (and the commission as a whole) to regulate in the public interest and guard against the possibility that post-employment considerations may impact on their decision making while still in public office.
"The commission must prevent (the appearance of) private interests buying favours from public officials through offering lucrative jobs once the officials leave public service."