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European Commission cabinet malfunctions reveal improper conflict of interest controls #NeelieKroes

Press Release

Monday 26 Sep 2016

Dublin MEP Nessa Childers expressed dismay at the revelations about of former Commissioner Neelie Kroes’ involvement in an off-shore company seeking to scavenge off the assets of Enron, made public in the latest work from the International Consortium of  Investigative Journalists – Bahamas Leaks.

Former Competition Commissioner Kroes has been outed as a member of the board of a Bahamas-based off-shore company, Mint Holdings set up in 2000 with middle eastern capital to acquire assets of Enron, the disgraced energy company.

Ms. Kroes was a board member until 2009, whereas she was a European Commissioner from 2004 to 2014, which she failed to state in her declaration of interests, as per the rules requiring the disclosure of such activities – up to ten years prior to taking office.

Nessa Childers spoke today in reaction to the revelations, and to the unsatisfactory explanations provided by Ms. Kroes and the European Commission. Ms. Childers, a member of a cross-party group in the European Parliament which focuses on transparency and integrity matters, said:

“This whole affair is the latest of a litany of spin and waltzes through the revolving doors that European Commissioners have sadly made us very much used to.

“It is hard to keep track of their many corporate personas in their post-Commission careers, and we are still reeling from former Commission President Barroso’s move to the chairmanship of Goldman Sachs.

“Ms. Kroes talks of administrative errors and forgotten deadlines to explain her omissions. One must spare a though for her busy agenda indeed, has she reported no less than 25 corporate positions in the decade prior to taking up office, not counting those she deemed irrelevant for that purpose, such as lobbying for weapons maker Lockheed Martin.

“She has certainly kept up the pace in her post-Commission life, having been taken on by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Salesforce, Uber, to name just a few.

“It is just impossible to muster enough generosity or naiveté to claim that such a plethora of ties to high-level corporate activity is clear of serious conflict of interest risks for someone who held the highest offices in Brussels, in charge of competition and digital regulation matters.

“The current code of conduct for Commissioners is simply obsolete, toothless and serious reform is way overdue.

“We currently have a 3-year period for former Commissioners banning them from contacting EU officials on matters under their previous remit, and requiring them to seek Commission scrutiny and authorisation to engage in new activities during that period.

“The problem is, a free for all follows afterwards, and there are loopholes in the process you could drive a truckload of high-level lobbyists through.

“The Commission must seriously clear up its act. As Le Monde put it yesterday, if they don’t, those  radicals they rail against as dangerous threats to the EU project might get a mandate to do the job for them.”