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Procedure : 2019/2950(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B9-0047/2020

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Debates :

PV 16/01/2020 - 3
CRE 16/01/2020 - 3

Votes :

PV 16/01/2020 - 6.7
CRE 16/01/2020 - 6.7
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Texts adopted
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Thursday, 16 January 2020 - Strasbourg
Institutions and bodies in the Economic and Monetary Union: Preventing post-public employment conflicts of interest

European Parliament resolution of 16 January 2020 on institutions and bodies of the Economic and Monetary Union: preventing post-public employment conflicts of interest (2019/2950(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 298 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to Regulation No 31 (EEC), 11 (EAEC), laying down the Staff Regulations of Officials and the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants of the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community (Staff Regulations), and in particular to Articles 11(a), 12, 16 and 17 thereof(1),

–  having regard to its resolution of 10 May 2011 on the 2009 discharge: performance, financial management and control of EU agencies(2),

–  having regard to Special Report No 15/2012 of the European Court of Auditors, entitled ‘Management of conflict of interest in selected EU Agencies’(3),

–  having regard to the Commission decision of 29 June 2018 on outside activities and assignments and on occupational activities after leaving the Service (C(2018)4048),

–  having regard to the press statement by the European Banking Authority (EBA) of 17 September 2019 on the announcement of Adam Farkas’ resignation from his post as Executive Director of the EBA, effective from 31 January 2020(4),

–  having regard to the question to the Commission on the appointment of EBA Executive Director Adam Farkas as Chief Executive of the Association of Financial Markets in Europe (AFME) (O-000031/2019 – B9-0054/2019) and to the replies given by the Commission on 24 October 2019(5),

–  having regard to the replies given by the Chairperson of the EBA at a hearing held by the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs on 4 November 2019,

–  having regard to the report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) of 23 August 2010 entitled ‘Post-Public Employment: Good Practices for Preventing Conflict of Interest’(6),

–  having regard to Transparency International Working Paper 06/2010 entitled ‘Regulating the Revolving Door’(7),

–  having regard to the draft recommendations of the European Ombudsman in the inquiry into complaint 775/2010/ANA against the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)(8),

–  having regard to the letter from the Ombudsman to the Director of the European Chemicals Agency of 13 June 2017 on the implementation of Article 16 of the EU Staff Regulations(9),

–  having regard to the letter from the Ombudsman to the Director of the EBA of 13 June 2017 on the implementation of Article 16 of the EU Staff Regulations(10),

–  having regard to the report of the European Ombudsman of 28 February 2019 on the publication of information on former senior staff so as to enforce the one-year lobbying and advocacy ban: SI/2/2017/NF(11),

–  having regard to its resolution of 12 February 2019 on a draft regulation of the European Parliament laying down the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the Ombudsman’s duties (Statute of the European Ombudsman)(12),

–  having regard to the political guidelines for the next European Commission 2019-2024(13),

–  having regard to the question to the Commission entitled ‘Institutions and bodies of the Economic and Monetary Union: preventing post-public employment conflicts of interest’ (O-000048/2019 – B9‑0001/2020),

–  having regard to Rules 136(5) and 132(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the motion for a resolution of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs,

A.  whereas Article 298(1) of the TFEU stipulates that ‘in carrying out their missions, the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union shall have the support of an open, efficient and independent European administration’;

B.  whereas Article 68(1) of Regulation (EU) No 1093/2010(14) stipulates that ‘the Staff Regulations, the Conditions of Employment of Other Servants and the rules adopted jointly by the Union institutions for the purpose of applying them shall apply to the staff of the Authority, including its Executive Director and its Chairperson’;

C.  whereas in particular, Articles 16 and 17 of the Staff Regulations set out the principles for staff leaving the institutions, including provisions on the prevention of conflict of interest;

D.  whereas the Executive Director of the EBA has accepted his appointment as chief Executive of AFME as from 1 February 2020 and has announced his resignation from his post as Executive Director of the EBA, which will take effect on 31 January 2020;

E.  whereas the EBA Management Board and Board of Supervisors decided that the EBA Executive Director’s new employment as CEO of AFME should be approved; whereas the Board of Supervisors has taken a decision to impose fairly light restrictions on its Executive Director, which according to the EBA address the conflict of interest arising from his acceptance of his new position at AFME; whereas these restrictions apply to activities carried out in the service of and after leaving the EBA;

F.  whereas in a hearing before the European Parliament the EBA Chair underlined the difficulty in enforcing restrictions on such post-public employment activities;

G.  whereas senior executives leaving supervisory authorities do not currently receive a temporary allowance;

H.  whereas post-public employment and ‘revolving door’ conflict-of-interest situations are recurring concerns and have been assessed and analysed by international and EU bodies, in particular the EU Ombudsman and the European Court of Auditors;

I.  whereas such ‘revolving door’ cases give interest groups the opportunity to reward regulators for past behaviour, thereby opening the door to harmful incentives;

1.  Underlines the importance of an open, efficient and independent European administration for the EU as a whole, including institutions, bodies and agencies in the Economic and Monetary Union;

2.  Is concerned about the conflict of interest that has arisen as a consequence of the appointment of the EBA Executive Director as AFME Chief Executive as from 1 February 2020; notes that this post-public employment with no cooling-off period constitutes a risk not only to the reputation and independence of the EBA but to all EU institutions and the European project as a whole;

3.  Recalls that unaddressed conflict-of-interest situations might not only compromise the enforcement of high ethical standards throughout European administration, but also jeopardise the right to good administration, thereby threatening the level playing field required for the proper functioning of the single market;

4.  Calls for the effective and consistent application of the Staff Regulations, in particular Article 16 thereof, in order to prevent conflicts of interest, in particular – but not only – concerning senior officials; underlines that Article 16 enables EU institutions to turn down a former official’s request to take a specific job if restrictions are not sufficient to protect the legitimate interests of the institutions; stresses that in the case of Mr Farkas, prohibition of a direct move to AFME might have been considered under Article 21(3)(b) of Commission Decision C(2018)4048, in that AFME can be seen as an ‘opposing party’;

5.  Fears that it is often not possible to enforce conditions imposed upon post-public employment activities; encourages EU institutions and agencies, therefore, to consider the full range of tools made available under Article 16 of the Staff Regulations;

6.  Questions the decision by the EBA Board of Supervisors and the EBA Management Board to allow Mr Farkas to take up the position of CEO of AFME; calls on them to review their decision;

7.  Notes that although experience in the private sector can be valuable for working in the institutions, the ‘revolving door’ system can also arise as a result of pre-public employment in the private sector, when a direct link between the former employer and the new position in the institution exists, and that this has the potential to compromise the integrity of EU institutions and damage citizens’ trust in them; stresses, therefore, the emerging need to evaluate how conflicts of interest could also arise from positions held pre-public employment or pre-appointment to posts carrying regulatory or executive powers and responsibilities, and recommends that this be given further consideration;

8.  Stresses that post-public employment and ‘revolving door’ conflict-of-interest situations are a problem common to all institutions, bodies, offices and agencies across the EU and its Member States; underlines, therefore, the need for a unified legal framework to efficiently address these issues;

9.  Notes the work done at international level (OECD) to ensure a harmonised framework for post-public employment situations; notes, at EU level, the work carried out to this end by the European Court of Auditors and the EU Ombudsman; notes that a timely implementation of these recommendations could prevent similar issues in the future;

10.  Emphasises that, while experience gained in private-sector employment by members of its staff can be valuable to a regulatory or supervisory body, the Union’s bodies and institutions should be suffused with a strong public service ethos so as best to serve Europe’s citizens;

11.  Calls on the European Court of Auditors to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the approach of bodies and agencies in the Economic and Monetary Union regarding the management of situations where there are potential conflicts of interest; calls on the European Court of Auditors to identify best practices;

12.  Calls on the Commission to assess current practice in the area of post-public employment at EU and national level with a view to identifying stronger measures for the prevention of conflicts of interest that arise when senior officials of EU bodies leave their posts to take up private-sector employment or when individuals coming from the private sector are appointed to senior positions in an EU body, and to take into account its findings in the consideration of a harmonised legal framework for the prevention of post-public employment conflicts of interest;

13.  Recalls the commitment made by the Commission at the plenary debate of 24 October 2019 to review the post-employment legal framework; calls on the Commission to put in place a harmonised legal framework for the prevention of post-public employment conflict-of-interest situations in order to ensure high ethical standards; stresses the need to align EU practice with international standards; underlines that the same standards should be applied at EU and national level;

14.  Calls on the Commission to define in its review of the post-public employment framework specific risk areas which might require strengthening, including the expansion of the possibility to block professional moves, and to consider a possible extension of cooling-off periods of senior officials, proportionate to the specific case, to ensure equal treatment in line with Article 15 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union; stresses that the requirement for ex-ante disclosure of conflicts of interest set out in Article 11 of the Staff Regulations should be implemented in a way that ensures that a candidate’s potential conflicts of interest are revealed well before taking up employment in an EU body; further stresses that all EU bodies should publish their internal rules for dealing with conflicts of interest on their websites and heed the European Ombudsman’s 2017 recommendations concerning the publication of the annual information required under Article 16(4) of the Staff Regulations;

15.  Calls on the Commission to extend this review to pre-public employment conflicts of interest and to consider strengthening existing measures, such as mandatory divestment of interests in undertakings that are subject to the authority of the institution to which a newly appointed official belongs or which have dealings with that institution, and also to consider new types of preventive measures, such as mandatory recusal when dealing with matters that affect a former private-sector employer;

16.  Considers that prohibition of a professional move where the person concerned currently holds employment and where the prohibition is sufficiently targeted and justified does not constitute violation of the right to employment;

17.  Points out that if longer cooling-off periods for senior officials who leave an agency are introduced, the possibility of granting them an appropriate temporary allowance might also be considered; underlines that such temporary allowances should end if new employment is taken up during the cooling-off period;

18.  Calls on the Commission to assess whether it is appropriate that the EU agencies concerned decide for themselves on the enforcement of the rules on the prevention of conflicts of interest and how consistent application of the rules can be ensured; considers the independent ethics body envisaged by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to be the body best suited to taking decisions related to conflicts of interest concerning EU staff members in the future;

19.  Suggests to all Members of the European Parliament and all representatives of the European Commission and the Council of the European Union that they refrain from contact with the current Executive Director if and when he takes up his position as CEO of AFME for a two-year period; calls on the services responsible for delivering permanent access passes (‘brown badges’) to Parliament’s premises to thoroughly consider Mr Farkas’ case, taking into account the possibility of not granting such a badge for the same time period (two years), in order to avoid a potential conflict of interest;

20.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the European Court of Auditors and the European Ombudsman.

(1) OJ 45, 14.6.1962, p. 1385.
(2) OJ L 250, 27.9.2011, p. 268.
(12) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2019)0080.
(14) Regulation (EU) No 1093/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 November 2010 establishing a European Supervisory Authority (European Banking Authority) (OJ L 331, 15.12.2010, p. 12).

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