Commission says clarity key to conflict-of-interest controversy

The recent sacking of former special adviser Rolf Linkohr, which has brought the lobbying transparency issue to the fore, was undertaken because of the need for “clarity”, according to the Commission.
 

Linkohr’s sacking will mean that the 55 special advisers who shape policy at the highest level in Brussels will be named for the first time, according to Kallas’s spokesman.

Kallas took action after Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), a transparency pressure group, wrote to him, Piebalgs and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso in January, alleging “a serious conflict of interest” between Linkohr’s roles.

Linkohr has issued a formal response to what he describes as an “orchestrated” and “indecent” campaign against him.

Former MEP and special adviser Rolf Linkohr, whose official statement has been published by EURACTIV, has said that made he was transparent concerning his company-advisory roles from the beginning of his consultancy with the Commission. "Different parties are accusing me of a "conflict of interest". The Commission has until today not raised this accusation. At least, I have no written evidence for that. If according to the Financial Times, Commissioner Kallas's spokesman claims this, why does he not say so to me, too?

"For a couple of months now, there has been an orchestrated campaign against me...It would be detrimental for the energy policy debate in Europe, which got a new impetus with the energy package released by the Commission, if the discussion was to continue in such an indecent way. Europe deserves better than this."

A spokesman for Commissioner Kallas told EURACTIV: "The Commission asked the special advisers for assurances that they were not in a situation of (possible) conflict of interest, as a reminder of the rules - there was sufficient time between the request for these assurances and the termination of the contract. In any event, the Commission would have listened to questions, requests for clarification, and so on. 

"I agree that advisers need to be competent, experienced in their field, this is evident, but there is also a clear obligation to make open any possible conflicts between the various functions one can have. Otherwise the function, also evidently, is compromised. The rules have to be applied in a proportionate manner and there has to be clarity."

And CEO Transparency Campaigner Erik Wesselius responded: "We are very encouraged that the names of all special advisers to the Commission will soon be in the public domain, as they should be, and we look forward to clearer rules that can prevent the emergence of conflicts of interest in the future." 

Concerning Linkohr's statement, Wesselius added: "We based these concerns on the findings of our research for a report on nuclear industry lobbying in Brussels. We considered the evidence against Mr Linkohr serious enough to raise the issue with the Commission and we don't see anything indecent in doing so."

Siim Kallas, Commission vice-president for administrative affairs, audit and anti-fraud, sent letters to all 55 special advisers in January 2007, asking them to confirm there was no conflict of interest between their roles. Former MEP Rolf Linkohr did not reply within the deadline so lost his job, a spokesman for Kallas confirmed, as reported in EURACTIV 19/02/07

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