Calls for more transparency over Brussels' 'revolving doors'

Calls for more transparency over Brussels' 'revolving doors'
By Chris Harris
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Exclusive: EU chiefs are being urged to be more transparent over how many of their former staff are working for firms receiving Brussels cash.

UKIP made the call after figures released to Euronews revealed the European Commission (EC) spent 332-million euros on external consultants from 2009-2013.

It included 1.7m euros on a Europe-wide language survey, 800,000 euros on a study into flood-prone areas in Serbia and 718,000 euros for a report on the untapped potential of the single market.

While there is no evidence linking this spending with firms employing ex-Commission staff, UKIP has joined demands for more openness around influential civil servants who move to the private sector.

The European Ombudsman has already urged a revamp of rules to fight the “revolving doors” phenomenon. Emily O’Reilly called for the EC to publish the names of senior officials who leave to work outside the EU administration.

UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge told Euronews: “These figures are astronomical and demonstrate why the lucrative revolving door at the Commission keeps on spinning.

**WHAT WAS THE MONEY SPENT ON?**To give a flavour of what the money was spent on, here are 12 items from 2012 and 2013:

SERVICE****FEE PAIDBeing a contact point for the European Network for Rural Development.€2,172,609European survey on language competences€1,761,050Technical and administrative assistance for the European Evaluation Network for rural Development.€802,568Study of flood-prone areas in Serbia€799,800Study on the cost of “non-Europe/single market”€718,000Assessing and controlling ragweed in the EU€681,480Assessment of farmers’ costs of compliance with EU legislation€528,541Customs study€499,082Information campaign for the European Year of Citizens 2013€484,888Analysis on future developments in the milk sector€358,265Evaluation of European School Milk Scheme€303,505Organisation of European Commission’s presence at food and hospitality exhibition in Shanghai, China.€193,360

“The commission has spent over 332 million euros on external consultancies over the last five years. This raises serious questions about how many of these consultancies are employing ex-Commission officials. For the sake of transparency these details must be released.

“With this level of expenditure, it is very hard to argue that the European Commission is getting value for money. And if the Commission were looking for independence, then why does it fund so many NGOs that are an echo chamber for Commission policy?”

The EC said it had a sound policy in place regarding the activities commissioners and senior officials do after they leave.

But it said there was room for improvement around transparency.

An official told Euronews: “The commission is reflecting how to further improve its practices to ensure the public is properly informed about its decisions about the mobility of staff, especially of senior officials.”


​Neculai Cristian Surubaru, an EU expert from Loughborough University, defended the European Commission.

“It’s well-known that the European Commission is quite rigorous in how its funds are used. It’s the other way around. There is lots of people saying the commission is too rigorous over the management of financial instruments.

“I think it’s normal [EC spending on external consultants] because the European Commission requires a lot of support to carry out its duties, such as initiating European policy.

“It’s a good indication that bodies like the European Commission need and rely on external support and often these experts have to be independent to avoid a conflict of interest.


“There is a danger that many of the evaluations and advice the Commission receives externally is shelved or not really used.

“Other solutions that the Commission could pursue as to reduce costs in this area would be to focus on developing more in-house expertise, particularly for communication and logistical activities and rely much more on the wide range of academic expertise that is out there, to balance much more the advice received from consultants.”

**HOW DOES THE SPENDING COMPARE?**There is not a wealth of comparative data but the National Health Service in the UK spent £640 million (900m euros) on management consultants in 2014. Its budget for the 2013/14 financial year was £95.6 billion (134.4bn euros).

The BBC, the UK’s public broadcaster, spent £7 million (€9.8m) on external consultants in 2014. Its budget was reported in 2012 to be £3.5bn (4.9bn euros)

The European Commission spent 67.7 million euros on external consultants in 2013. The EU’s budget was 144 billion euros in 2013, around 6 per cent of which goes on administration.


An EC official, talking about transparency over departing staff, said: “The Commission has a sound policy in place regarding the activities which its senior officials and former Commissioners can perform after the end of service. We are leading by example.

“The Commission is reflecting how to further improve its practices to ensure the public is properly informed about its decisions about the mobility of staff, especially of senior officials.

“In this reflection, the Commission seeks the right balance between the right to information and the need to fully respect data protection rules; remembering that the protection of the institutional interests should go hand in hand with people’s right to work.”

Defending the value-for-money aspect of external consultancy, she added: “The Commission frequently calls on independent, expert advice and commissions studies and reports that either go beyond our level of expertise or are more cost efficient to outsource. The Commission and its departments remain fully independent regarding the way they take into account the expertise and views gathered.”

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