Former Irish European Commissioner Phil Hogan, in Brussels, in December 2019. KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP
A case of “revolving door”, another, in Brussels, where, despite some reforms, the functioning of the institutions remains tainted by the system of “revolving doors” between the public and private sectors. This time, it is the Irish conservative Phil Hogan who is at the heart of the controversy. This former minister and European commissioner was hired by the American law firm DLA Piper, while his so-called “cooling” – or “retraction” – period was not due to end until August 2022, two years after he had to give up his portfolio in the commission headed by Ursula von der Leyen.
Agriculture Commissioner in the Commission chaired by Jean-Claude Juncker, from 2014 to 2019, he then became the holder of the trade portfolio. A function he had to give up in August 2020, under pressure from Dublin. Violating the rules in force in his country, he had, in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, participated in a dinner bringing together more than 80 guests.
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It was in mid-September that his new employer issued a press release stating that Mr. Hogan would become a “political and strategic advisor” within the Brussels branch of the law firm DLA Piper, active in particular in the fields of energy and trade. The company told the EUobserver site that it would abide by the rules established by the Commission. “Mr. Hogan will advise our account managers on regulatory and commercial decisions, as part of our legal and strategic advice,” said a spokesperson.
Asked Monday, September 20, a spokesperson for the Commission said that Mr. Hogan’s case was currently under “active examination”. This suggests that the ethics committee, to which the activities of a former commissioner must be declared, was not informed beforehand. This body can, in principle, set limits on the retraining of a former member of the college, but it would only exercise timid control over his new functions.
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The committee, on the other hand, approved a few months ago the creation by Mr. Hogan of his own consulting firm. He would have been imposed some limitations, including the prohibition to approach his former colleagues and the obligation to indicate, every six months, the names of his clients. This is to avoid, in theory, conflicts of interest and the use of confidential information that it holds.
“It’s possible that it was actually through his company that he got a job with DLA Piper,” EUobserver points out. As a result, he would not have been required to immediately inform the ethics committee. It is through the same means, namely by creating a consultancy company, that the German Günther Oettinger, former budget commissioner, had previously been able to exercise about fifteen positions during his period of “cooling”. Apparently, without any penalty.
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