Campaigners file Ombudsman complaint on European Commission’s failure to curb revolving doors

Press release from Corporate Europe Observatory, Greenpeace, Lobbycontrol and Spinwatch

Press release - October 16, 2012
Brussels/Cologne/London - Lobby transparency campaigners have filed a complaint with the EU Ombudsman, raising concerns about the European Commission's failure to deal with the problem of Commission staff going through the ’revolving door‘ to jobs in the private sector [1].

The Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) is a coalition of over 200 public interest groups, trade unions, academics and public affairs firms concerned with the increasing influence exerted by corporate lobbyists on the political agenda in Europe, the resulting loss of democracy in EU decision-making and the postponement, weakening, or blockage even, of urgently needed progress on social, environmental and consumer-protection reforms.


The complaint comes just days after the European Court of Auditors criticised the Commission's agencies for failing to take adequate action to tackle 'revolving door' type conflicts of interest [2].

A large number of senior staff have moved through the revolving door to jobs in industry, or vice versa, including as lobbyists, creating potential conflicts of interest [3]. Campaigners say the Commission has failed to implement its own rules or adequately scrutinise the moves [4].

The complaint refers to ten cases which highlight these concerns. These include senior Commission officials moving straight into, or setting up, lobby consultancies after leaving office, without appropriate scrutiny or restrictions by the Commission.

The complaint argues that the cases create potential conflicts of interest, where the former staff member is able to exploit their knowledge and contacts to lobby for their new employer. This provides the potential for excessive and undue influence.

Civil society groups are campaigning for the Commission to take firmer action against revolving door cases, but Commissioner Šefčovič, in charge of transparency issues, has repeatedly rejected these concerns, precipitating the complaint to the Ombudsman.

Rachel Tansey from Corporate Europe Observatory said:
"The Commission's laissez-faire approach to the revolving door has failed to prevent former employees from selling their knowledge and influence to industry lobby organisations. Rules exist, but they are not being properly implemented - and when breaches do occur, no proper sanctions are being imposed. We have submitted a complaint to the Ombudsman as we believe this situation undermines the credibility of the Commission and EU decision-making."

Transparency International has described the "excessive and undue influence of lobbyists in the European corridors of power" as a form of "legal corruption" [5].

Rachel Tansey, Corporate Europe Observatory: +32 2 8930930,
Nina Katzemich, Lobbycontrol: +49 221 1696507,

[1] The complaint, which was filed today by Corporate Europe Observatory, Greenpeace, Lobbycontrol and Spinwatch is available here:
[2] European Court of Auditors. Special Report No 15/2012: Management of conflict of interest in selected EU Agencies. Page 35, para 88.
[3] The OECD defines a conflict of interest as occurring: "when an individual or a corporation (either private or governmental) is in a position to exploit his or their own professional or official capacity in some way for personal or corporate benefit."
[4] ALTER-EU. 2011. Block the revolving door: why we need to stop EU officials becoming lobbyists.
For an updated list of cases, see Corporate Europe Observatory's RevolvingDoorWatch,
[5] Transparency International. 2012. Money, politics and power: corruption risks in Europe. Page 10.