Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The EU Ombudsman warned the European Commission that without a more robust approach to the movement of staff to the private sector, the EU executive risks undermining the integrity of the EU administration.
While it recognizes some improvements made by the Commission to prevent ‘revolving doors’, the EU watchdog says that more needs to be done. According to the EU Ombudsman, the Commission should forbid jobs temporarily if they pose risks that cannot be offset by restrictions or if restrictions cannot credibly be monitored and enforced.
“The EU administration is at a critical point in its treatment of ‘revolving doors’. Failing to control the practice now will allow the embedding of a culture that may erode public confidence in the integrity and expertise of the EU institutions,” said European Ombudsman’s head Emily O’Reilly.
Preventing ‘revolving doors’
Other measures like making the approval of a new job conditional on the staff member obtaining a commitment from the new employer to publish any restrictions on its website and publish the decisions on staff members’ new jobs faster have also been listed by the Ombudsman.
“The movement of regulators into sectors they formerly regulated has become a problematic issue in Brussels, yet this is not fully reflected in how the EU administration deals with the matter,” said O’Reilly. She believes there is a tendency to underestimate the corrosive effects of officials bringing their knowledge and networks to related areas in the private sector.
The inquiry covered a sample of 100 decisions taken by the Commission in 2019-2021, across 14 Directorates-General, all Commissioner cabinets, the Commission’s Legal Service, and the Secretariat-General.
Of these 100 decisions, the Commission prohibited only two activities of which the Ombudsman did not find maladministration.
The inquiry forms part of the Ombudsman’s overall work, including ongoing inquiries related to the European Investment Bank and the European Central Bank.
In former inquiries related to the European Banking Authority and the European Defence Agency (EDA), the Ombudsman found that both should have temporarily forbidden the jobs in question. In the latter, EDA was under pressure to change its rules after a former employee started working for Airbus in what was seen as lax process.
The Commission spokesperson said the Berlaymont will respond to the Ombudsman by mid-November.
“We will analyse each suggestion scrupulously and assess what can be implemented in a legally sound and effective way,” the spokesperson noted.