The current (inadequate) rules which regulate the revolving door are contained within the Staff Regulations for Officials of the European Communities. This document is the result of negotiations by the Commission with staff trade unions, and is approved by the Parliament and the Council. The rules apply to all staff working across the European institutions, including the agencies.
Consultations are already underway on a review of the staff regulations, based on a draft proposal which covers a number of topics such as staff working hours, pension and pay levels. This review will be complete in 2012. The revolving door is not currently on the agenda of these negotiations, but ALTER-EU thinks it should be included.
Of course, it is important that the EU institutions benefit from a workforce who bring with them experience from many different walks of life. The European institutions should include people who have had experience of working in the public sector, private sector and civil society. But it is also important that the EU institutions are vigilant in preventing conflicts of interest which occur as a result of the revolving door and they need new rules to do this.
Tough revolving doors rules would not prevent staff joining and leaving the institutions, but they would regulate those who wish to join, or who come from, specific categories of jobs ie. lobby jobs or those jobs which provoke conflicts of interest. There will be many other kinds of jobs which would not be affected by effective revolving door rules.
Of course NGOs and trade unions carry out lobbying activities, although in truth their numbers are far smaller than the number of industry lobbyists in Brussels. A particular concern for ALTER-EU is the direct revolving door between the EU institutions and the lobby consultancy industry in Brussels. Nonetheless, the revolving door rules which ALTER-EU proposes would cover lobbying carried out by all types of organisations.
Publishing a list of revolving doors cases will not infringe individuals' privacy or their right to data protection. We do not want to see personal data such as dates of birth or home addresses published. In the UK, a monthly list is published of revolving doors cases which simply lists: the official's name, their old and new job titles and organisations, the dates of the move, and what the authority has decided about that role. This seems adequate.
There are revolving doors rules in place at the moment, but they are not effectively implemented and these rules include various loopholes. Improved rules with better implementation processes might increase the administration work for the institutions, although the development of common procedures and clear definitions should also help to make them efficient. However, a small increase in administration seems like a small price to pay for tackling the big problem of the revolving door, and moving towards EU institutions which are free of conflicts of interest.
While ex-Commissioners and former MEPs are entitled to a transitional allowance after they leave office to help them to move on from their EU career, and so that they are not forced to accept jobs which might provoke a conflict of interest, this does not apply to officials. Thus the institutions will not incur expensive costs of paying ex-officials after they have left their employment. Former officials will not be “not allowed to work”, but some may be prevented from accepting a limited category of jobs for a period of time.