A third of Jose Barroso’s European Commission colleagues have taken up high level roles in the business sector since leaving public office. But what are they doing?
Point of view
The Commission cannot be left responsible for its own ethics.Corporate Europe Observatory
The commissioners of 2010-2014 have taken up a wide range of roles .
Viviane Reding, former Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, for example, is a Director at Belgian multinational Agfa-Gevaert. She also serves as an MEP.
Karel De Gucht, who served as Commissioner for Trade, is a Member of the European Advisory Board of CVC Capital Partners, a Director at ArcelorMittal, a member of the Management Board of Belgacom/Proximus, and is on the Management Board of Merit Capital NV.
Campaigners say appointments like this are part of what’s called the “revolving door”, where politicians take prominent roles in business after finishing their political career.
The roles commissioners have taken vary widely.
Not all the commissioners have gone into the private sector.
Some, such as Tonio Borg and Catherine Ashton have moved into the higher education sector, and lecture or teach.
Others, such as Olli Rehn, Janusz Lewandowski, and Antonio Tajani are still in politics. Rehn is an MP in his native Finland, and Lewandowski and Tajani are among those who still work in Brussels as MEPs.
Perhaps the ex-commissioner who has gone on fulfil the most prominent political role is Dacian Ciolos, who now serves as the Prime Minister of Romania.
And not all the commissioners have multiple roles. Martine Reicherts has only one declared role, as the Director-General of the Publications office at the European Commission.
However, Joaquín Almunia currently holds 15 roles, some paid, other not and some such as his membership of the Scientific Council of the Aristide Merloni Foundation, where it is unclear whether or not he is paid for his work. It is also unclear what time he devotes to each role or position.
Euronews contacted the offices of several of the ex-Commissioners named to ask them about their work. De Gucht did not reply, and Reding was unavailable to comment, according to a spokeman.
Where are they now?
Viviane Reding: ex-Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship
Reding currently serves as a Christian Democrat MEP.
Alongside that role she is:
• On the Board of Trustees for Bertelsmann Stiftung;
• She sits on the Honorary Council of the European Movement International (alongside former Commission President Barroso);
• She is a member of the Advisory Board, Policy and Decision making, of the Global Economic Symposium;
• She is an unpaid board member of the UEFA Foundation for Children;
• She is a Director of Agfa-Gevaert;
Tonio Borg: ex-Commissioner for Health
Borg is a Lecturer of Public Law at the University of Malta. He is also a representative of the European Parliament on the Management Board of the European Medicines Agency.
Stefan Fule: ex-Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
• Fule is a member of Central European Strategy Council’s International Advisory Board;
• He also works for the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs;
• He is a board member of Trustees of Friends of Europe;
• He is President of the Advisory Board of the Initiative for European Value;
• He is a member of the Program Council of the Forum2000 Foundation;
• and Fule is a Special Representative of the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe with responsibility for the western Balkans
Siim Kallas: ex-Commissioner for Transport
• Kallas is Chair of the Commission’s High Level Group of Independent Experts on Monitoring Simplification for Beneficiaries of the European Structural and Investment Funds.
• He is also Special Advisor to current Commissioner for the Euro and Social Dialogue, Valdis Dombrovskis;
• He was a consultant for tech firm Nortal, though after this caused controversy, he stepped down;
• a visiting professor of European Transport Policy at the Tallinn University of Technology;
• and a Lecturer in International Finance at the University of Tartu.
Olli Rehn: ex-Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro
• Rehn is an MP in his native Finland, and Economics Minister in the Finnish government.
Nelli Feroci: ex-Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship
• Feroci is President of the Istituto Affari Internazionali.
Michel Barnier: Commissioner for Internal Markets
• Barnier has been an advisor to current EC President Jean-Claude Juncker since 2015, and since July 2016 has been in charge of EU Brexit negotiations.
Martine Reicherts: ex-Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship
• Reicherts is Director-General of the Publications office at the European Commission.
Maria Damanaki: ex-Commissioner for Maritime affairs and Fisheries
• Damanaki is on the board of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and Global Managing Director for Oceans at The Nature Conservancy.
Maire Geoghegan-Quinn: ex-Commissioner for Reseach, Innovation and Science
• Geoghegan-Quinn is a board member of the Biomedical Sciences Institute at Trinity College (Dublin);
• And the co-chair of a review into gender equality in Irish Higher Education institutions.
Laszlo Andor: ex-Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
• on the Advisory Board of the European Policy Centre;
• the Board of Advisors of RAND Europe;
• he holds a research and teaching role at the Hertie School of Governance;
• is a board of Trustees member at Friends of Europe; he is on the Scientific Advisory Council of the Institute of Political History;
• and he teaches at the Institute for European Studies at the Universitie Libre de Bruxelles.
Karel de Gucht: ex-Commissioner for Trade
• de Gucht is Member of the European Advisory Board of CVC Capital Partners;
• a Director at ArcelorMittal;
• a member of the Management Board of Belgacom/Proximus;
• He is on the Management Board of Merit Capital NV(Email sent);
• and President of the Institute of European Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
John Dalli: Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy
• Dalli is Advisor to the Maltese government on hospital reform.
Joaquin Almunia: ex-Commissioner for Competition
• Almunia is a member of the Scientific Council of the Aristide Merloni Foundation;
• a member of a Scientific Committee at the European House-Ambrosetti;
• a member of the Advisory Board for the Centre for European Policy Studies;
• a Correspondent Member of the Competence Center of European and International Law at the University of St. Gallen;
• a member of the advisory board of Notre Europe;
• an advisory board member of the Centre for European Reform;
• a member of the advisory board of the European Policy Centre;
• an advisory board member of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies;
• a board member of the Deusto Business School;
• a Board of Trustees member at Friends of Europe;
• a member of the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council;
• a Visiting Fellow at the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies at Harvard University;
• and a Visiting Professor at the European Institute of the London School of Economics.
Janusz Lewandowski: ex-Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget
• Lewandowski is now an MEP
Janez Potocnik: ex-Commissioner for Environment
• Poticnik is member of the “A vision for Europe towards sustainable and circular economy” Steering Committee;
• President of the Long-term vision for the Balkans sub-region of the Mediterranean Biodiversity Hotspot in the framework of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund;
• an Ambassador for the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution;
• President of the Rural Investment Support for Europe Foundation;
• Co-president of the UN International Resource Panel;
• President of the Forum for the Future of Agriculture; Advisory Board member of the European Policy Centre.
Jacek Dominik: ex-Commissioner for Budget
• Dominik is Counsellor General in the Polish Ministry of Finance.
Dacian Ciolos: ex-Commissioner for Agriculture
• Prime Minister of Romania.
Connie Hedegaard: ex-Commissioner for Climate Action
• Hedegaard is Chair of the KR Foundation Board;
• a member of the Danfoss board;
• Chair of the OECD Round Table for Sustainable Development;
• o-Chair of the R 20 Initiative; Chair of the Danish Ministry of Culture’s Public Services Committee;
• external board member of Arhus University
Catherine Ashton: ex-High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
• Ashton undertook unpaid work at the think tank Inter Mediate;
• a member of the House of Lords in UK parliament;
• a Visiting Fellow at the University of Yale;
• Visiting Professor at King’s College London.
Antonio Tajani: ex-Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship
• Tajani is an MEP.
Androulla Vassiliou: ex-Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
• Representative of the Republic of Cyprus on the High Council of the European University Institute;
• Member of the Board of Trustees of Friends of Europe;
• President of the Board of Trustees of the Bank of Cyprus Oncology Centre;
• Member of the Board of Trustees of the Cyprus Research and Educational Foundation
Andris Piebalgs: ex-Commissioner for Development
• Research Fellow at the Florence School of Regulation of the European University Institute;
• A member of the Friends of the Global Fund Europe;
• member of the Board of Trustees of Friends of Europe;
• Adviser to the President of Latvia; Visiting professor at the University of Latvia
Algirdas Semeta: ex-Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union
• Business Ombudsman, a position created by the Memorandum of Understanding of the Anti-Corruption Initiative for Ukraine ***************************************************************************
Are they breaking any rules?*
The short answer is “no”.
However, campaigners highlight that they have not all been seen or approved by the Ad Hoc Ethical Committee.
Currently, the Ad Hoc Committee must only oversee new positions if the “occupation is related to the content of the portfolio” the person held whilst Commissioner.
However, this only applies for 18 months after Commissioners leave office according to the Code of Conduct.
Transparency International says this system does not work, and recommends changes. They would like the EU “to establish an independent standing ethics committee, with powers to maker binding recommendations and impose sanctions. This would relieve the College of Commissioners of the duty to pass judgement on the conduct of former colleagues”.
Daniel Freund, head of Advocacy on EU Integrity at Transparency International said a solution to this would be to “extend the ‘cooling-off period” to the three years… In that period former Commissioners should be prohibited from lobbying directly or indirectly the EU institutions (and would) receive transitional allowances”.
“As a comparison, cooling-off periods of 5 years apply to senior public office holders in Canada”, Freund added.
Vicky Cann of the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) is even more critical. She told euronews that “the conclusion from the ethics scandals that have surrounded the Commission in recent months – Kroes, Barroso, De Gucht – seems pretty obvious. The Commission cannot be left responsible for its own ethics”.
Cann and the CEO agree that the Ad Hoc Committee as it is should be scrapped, “and instead have a fully independent body to take care of all ethics matters relating to commissioners”.
But the EU does not agree.
Current EU Commissioner for Economic and Financial affairs, Taxation and Customs, Pierre Moscovici recently spoke to the European Parliament about the current system of checks on outgoing Commissioners.
He defended the Commission’s actions, saying “the Commission is doing a lot more than others to maintain… the ethics of its members and its former members”.
Moscovici criticised what he called “personal choices” of some, but argued that “I don’t think we have to transform the problems raised… into an amalgamation with the whole Commission and (European) Parliament”.
But this isn’t simply a war of words. The group Alter-EU, a group describing itself as a coalition of over 200 organisations, “concerned with the increasing influence exerted by corporate lobbyists on the political agenda in Europe” has submitted an official complaint to President Juncker over the roles taken on by President Barosso, and Commissioners De Gucht and Kroes.
The aim of this complaint is to change the Code of Conduct which Commissioners and the Commission must abide by, when in office and when looking for further employment.