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EU auditors criticize executive agency safeguards by Stocksak

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© Stocksak. FILE PHOTO – European Union flags fly outside the EU Commission Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on September 28, 2022. REUTERS/Yves Herman

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By Gabriela Baczynska

BRUSSELS, (Stocksak), – Thursday’s European Union auditors criticized the bloc’s specialised agencies for failing “revolving doors” to stop officials from taking up lucrative jobs in the private sector at the risk or conflict of interests.

More than 40 EU agencies are involved in areas such banking, border security and medicine. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and European Medicines Agency played important roles in the COVID-19 epidemic.

The EU agencies had a total budget of more 4 billion euros ($4billion) last year. They employed around 14,500 people, 17% of all EU staff, and spent European funds in excess of 13 billion euros according to the European Court of Auditors.

“EU rules provide very few obligations to EU bodies to monitor compliance with current and former staff with the requirements of the’revolving doors’,” the ECA stated in a report.

“On the other hand, EU agencies – especially those with regulatory powers and links to industry – are particularly prone to the risk.”

The integrity of EU policies is at stake with lobbying firms and sectoral business looking to hire ex-officials with inside knowledge and contacts.

While the bloc’s main regulator and executive, the Brussels-based European Commission is protected from such practices, there are not unified rules that apply to the agencies. This means they rely on scattered and inefficient self-regulation.

According to the ECA, there are no binding and consistent limits on revolving door use. This is a problem because it creates a legal vacuum that could lead to potential conflicts of interests.

ECA stated that only nine EU agencies had any internal rules regarding revolving doors for their board members. Out of about 1,500 such posts, some 650 people left their jobs in 2019-21, but only 25 cases were assessed vis-à-vis such risk.

Auditor Rimantas Sadzius stated that “What we see is probably only the tip” of these numbers.

DAMAGE

Recent years have seen public anger at the prominent cases of Jose Manuel Barroso (ex-head of the powerful European Commission), joining Goldman Sachs (NYSE 🙂 and Neelie Kroes (NYSE :), who were accused of unfairly lobbying for Uber (NYSE :).

“Every time that happens the EU is damaged,” stated Emily O’Reilly, the bloc’s ombudswoman (NASDAQ:).

She said that the case of Barroso was a major issue in Britain’s 2016 Brexit referendum. However, companies who were affected by the Brexit vote were determined to reduce the effectiveness of the bloc’s climate change policies.

Barroso denied lobbying for his former EU colleagues to become his new employer.

Transparency International’s 2017 report stated that half the ex-EU Commissioners and a third former EU lawmakers had moved to work in EU lobbying organizations.

Vitor Teixeira, TI, stated that there were not enough rules to avoid revolving doors and insufficient monitoring. Enforcement is even more difficult. This situation is especially bad for EU agencies.

He stated that the current system of self-regulation and self-monitoring doesn’t work. We need a new one.

($1 = 0.9941 euros)

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