The Commission, which has initiated reform of the Staff Regulations, has ignored the possibility of including the revolving door within the changes. MEPs have responded to the Commission's reforms and proposed some positive improvements to the current revolving door rules. In Autumn 2012, the Council, Commission and Parliament will all need to agree on a way forward: ALTER-EU demands that the institutions come together and seize this once-in-a-decade opportunity to block the revolving door!
Staff Regulations reform
In December 2011, the Commission published their proposal to reform the Staff Regulations which sets out the rights and responsibilities of over 50 000 EU staff working across the EU institutions. The regulations are not often reformed as it requires an act of legislation to do so. This time, the Commission’s proposals were limited to reforms to the terms and conditions of EU staff, in the context of the wider austerity programmes being implemented in EU member states. Needless to say, such reforms have not been well received by the trade unions representing EU staff. Meanwhile, the Commission has ignored the opportunity to revamp ethics and transparency rules.
MEPs have spent the first half of 2012 considering the Commission’s proposals. After campaigning by groups such as ALTER-EU, a number of MEPs from across a range of party groups (including the centre-right EPP, liberal ALDE and Greens) and parliamentary committees tabled amendments which would introduce reforms to the current revolving door rules. After a process to merge the different amendments and find a consensus amongst MEPs, the Legal Affairs committee has voted for the following amendments:
Compromise amendment 1: This amendment introduces a specific duty on EU institutions to scrutinise all incoming officials and returning sabbaticals for conflicts of interest.
Compromise amendment 2: This amendment introduces a 12-month cooling-off period on officials leaving the EU institutions and wishing to take up lobby jobs in areas where they previously had responsibility. It would ban officials on sabbatical from engaging in any lobbying activity, and would demand the institutions are more transparent about revolving door cases and how they handle them.
Overall, while not going as far as ALTER-EU would like, these amendments do represent a step forward and would start to bring the EU's rules in line with the progressive rules already in place in the US.
At some point in Autumn or Winter 2012, the European Parliament's plenary will vote on the whole package of amendments and proposals on the Staff Regulations. Hopefully the revolving door amendments will be part of this vote. Meanwhile, the Council will also need to agree on these proposals and it is anticipated that after the Summer an informal triologue will start involving representatives from the Commission, Parliament and Council.
The Council have made it clear that they are in no hurry to agree proposals which will increase expenditure in Brussels and this may delay things further, even into 2013. ALTER-EU hopes that the Council will recognise that these proposals to amend the revolving door rules will not require substantial new expenditure. Furthermore, these proposed amendments can be shown to be in the public interest, and could contribute to the necessary rebuilding of public faith in the EU institutions after the damage of the economic crisis and the resulting austerity.
To follow the process in the European Parliament and to read the Legal Affairs committee's report and amendments, see here.
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