PositionCorporate Europe Observatory

Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), a non-governmental organisation that monitors lobbying, takes issue with the make-up of the European Commission's ad hoc ethical committee and intends to submit a complaint to the European ombudsman. This committee advises the Commission on the compatibility of activities that former commissioners wish to take up after leaving office if these are related to areas for which they were formerly responsible.

The committee, whose three-year mandate expired recently, was renewed on 12 December 2012. It is still made up of three members: former Member of the European Parliament Terry Wynn, former judge at the EU Court of Justice Rafael Garcia-Valdecasas y Fernandez, and Michel Petite. CEO's complaint concerns Petite, former head of the Commission's legal service and cabinet chief to Romano Prodi. Since 2008, he has worked for Clifford Chance law firm. In response to questions from the European Parliament over the resignation of John Dalli, the Commission acknowledged that its legal service had contacts with external legal experts in the process of drafting the Tobacco Products Directive. "Two brief conversations took place between legal service officials and Michel Petite [ ] who mentioned that his law firm provided legal advice to a tobacco company [Philip Morris International] and set out his views on legal issues of tobacco legislation," notes the Commission. Europolitics has learned that these discussions were strictly informal contacts between former colleagues.

It is on this basis that CEO describes Petite as a "tobacco lobbyist". Erik Wesselius, who heads the NGO's campaign, admits that the term is a bit strong but finds that it is "unacceptable that a former EC official who is now a lawyer/lobbyist and who has recently lobbied on behalf of tobacco firm Philip Morris, is advising the European Commission on ethical issues and conflicts of interest. Everybody can see that this is an impossible combination. This is in fact a recurring debate, but in our opinion law firms should be considered lobbyists."

Petite declined to...

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