Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

European Ombudsman demands EFSA admits failure over revolving door

  • Dansk
  • Nederlands
  • English
  • Suomi
  • Français
  • Deutsch
  • Ελληνικά
  • Italiano
  • Bokmål
  • Polski
  • Portuguese
  • Română
  • Slovenščina
  • Español
  • Svenska

Munich/ Brussels, 8 December 2011: The European Ombudsman has ruled in favour of a complaint filed by Testbiotech against the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) regarding its approach to the 'revolving door'. The case concerns a former senior staff member at EFSA, Dr Suzy Renckens, who was head of the unit responsible for the risk assessment of genetically engineered plants for five years until 2008. Dr Renckens, a Belgian national, then moved to a job at Syngenta, a company that produces and markets these plants. The European Ombudsman has now agreed with Testbiotech's complaint and ruled that “EFSA should acknowledge that it failed to observe the relevant procedural rules and to carry out a sufficiently thorough assessment of the potential conflict of interests arising from the move of a former member of its staff to a biotechnology company”[1]. 

“The ruling from the Ombudsman shows in detail that EFSA failed to fulfill its obligations,” said Christoph Then from Testbiotech. “We are very concerned that both EFSA and the Commission have tried to deny their responsibilities in this case by rejecting our original complaints. The authority and the European Commission, which backs EFSA, are eroding confidence in European institutions. In consequence they are putting at risk the protection of consumers and the environment.”

Olivier Hoedeman from Corporate Europe Observatory said: “There have been other cases of staff going through the revolving door; EFSA should look carefully at the ruling and introduce a far stricter approach to conflicts of interest in the future. The Ombudsman makes some important recommendations which should lead to changes in how revolving door rules are implemented across the EU institutions, including at the Commission. We continue to see further scandalous revolving doors cases [2] and it is vital that the EU institutions, starting with the Commission, put improved rules and procedures in place to prevent future conflicts of interest, including a cooling off period of several years. It is time for a new start. No more business as usual.”

The Suzy Renckens case was made public by Testbiotech in November 2009 and the complaint was supported by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) and Lobbycontrol (in Germany)[3]. EFSA now has until 31 March 2012 to respond to the judgement of the EU Ombudsman who has the power to table the issue in the European Parliament.

ENDS

Contact:

Testbiotech: Christoph Then, Tel +49 15154638040, info@testbiotech.org

CEO: Vicky Cann, Corporate Europe Observatory, tel: +32 28 93 09 30, mobile: +32 489 596 478

Notes:

[1] A link to the full ruling from the European Ombudsman can be found here: http://www.testbiotech.de/en/node/588

[2] CEO's RevolvingDoorWatch was launched on 7 December and it presents details of many other revolving door cases, including other cases at EFSA, and others concerning food industry lobbyists: http://www.corporateeurope.org/projects/revolvingdoorwatch

[3] All documents related to this complaint can be found here: http://www.testbiotech.de/independence

Related issues: 
 

Polluters in Peru blog

The Alliance for Lobby Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) has today launched two new publications aimed at improving ethics and transparency in the European Parliament.
Jan Eric Frydman arrives with a CV that reads like the dream biography of an international corporate player, and is set to have a key role in steering the Commissioner's approach to TTIP.
NGOs have today responded to the Commission's reply to the European Ombudsman's recommendations on how to better handle revolving door cases within the Commission. In particular, they echo the demand for more transparency.
The European Commission directorate-general at the heart of the 'cash for influence' claims by UK MP Jack Straw (TAXUD - taxation and customs union), has now released to Corporate Europe Observatory information showing its lobby contacts in 2013 with the now disgraced ex-minister. The documents illustrate how Straw tried to use his influential name and impressive CV to help open lobby doors. They also expose the loopholes in EU lobby rules.
The European Commission is publicly talking up its climate ambition on the road to the UN climate talks in Paris this December. But a new briefing by Corporate Europe Observatory and Friends of the Earth Europe shows that in reality, its recently-established advisory group for the evaluation of shale gas development is opening the back door to fracking across Europe, despite massive public opposition.
On 17 April, Via Campesina, the D190-20 Alliance and Corporate Europe Observatory held a lobby tour around the Brussels European quarter, highlighting the corporate lobbies who are pushing an aggressive agenda around TTIP (the EU-US trade deal currently being negotiated). There was a particular emphasis on the impacts TTIP will have, if passed, for farmers' livelihoods, food standards, and for the way food is produced in the EU. The next negotiation round will take place on 20 April, this time in New York.
New report by CEO and Friends of the Earth Europe on the European Commission's new advisory network on fracking, which is opening the back door to shale gas expansion across Europe, despite massive public opposition.
In response to the criticism of the controversial investor rights in TTIP, a number of law firms recently founded a think tank designed to protect the current investment arbitration system: The European Federation for Investment Law and Arbitration (EFILA).

Alternative Trade Mandate

Corporate Europe Forum