Tuesday 30 September 2008

German high-level diplomat becomes lobbyist

The recently retired Deputy Permanent Representative of the German Representation to the European Union in Brussels joins, three month after retirement, the lobbyist consultancy GPlus Europe.

Peter Witt, who held the rank of ambassador, will be able to use his first-hand experience to consult clients on crucial details of EU decision-making.

The press has written about GPlus Europe (which they display on their own website):
Within Brussels, one of the best-known cases of the seemingly organic ties between the EU institutions and businesses can be found in the sleek offices of GPlus Europe. Of the 49 employees listed on this public relations firm's website, 28 have worked for the European Parliament, the Commission or for the Brussels embassies of the Union's national governments.

GPlus has used the insider knowledge that its employees have of the EU institutions as a selling point, helping it to win clients as illustrious as Microsoft and Vladimir Putin; the former Russian president hired its services in an effort to improve his image in the West.
This is another example of important civil servants joining the lobbyist scene in Brussels, shortly after leaving public office. Whether this is much better than leaking secrets while being in office - I am not too sure.

via FAZ (printed version)


Brussels Blogger said...

I agree with you that this is problematic.

What could be a good and effective measure against these "revolving doors" problems? A ban of employment in the private sector within 6 months after leaving a European institution? It's really not easy.

Anonymous said...

The area is too grey to give a definite answer.

Since European legislative processes are sometimes (if not frequently) much more lenghty than national law-making, 6 month might even not be enough to make an insider to become an outsider.

I remember myself leaving work in an international organisation but almost one year later I could still identify major clashes, internal positions of countries, or changes in policy orientation by just reading the public documentation (that is, without having insight into internal procedures and documents anymore and even without consulting internal contacts) of the organisation, just because the speed of policy development was so slow.

Hence, I will be very hard to draw the line and in reality it would involve a check for each individual - something that will be practically impossible.

From my point of view, this is not a legal question but a question of ethics.

But ethical behaviour and respect for their own moral responsibility seem to be rather difficult for some individuals that have served a public good but turn around to private interests.

For me, this is a misunderstanding of a public office, not more and not less. Law will not change this, it will only provoque more "intelligent" solutions.

Jon Worth said...

Yet having seen the atmosphere within national and EU administrations, and also knowing a number of people that work at GPlus I would choose the latter every time as a place to work...

While it's undoubtedly a problem it should be seen two ways: what are the reasons why people do this? More pay, and a better working environment must be foremost among them.

Anonymous said...

2 years waiting period. It's an ethical issue, but has to be backed up by legislation that increases the costs of breaching the aforementioned ethics.

Anonymous said...

You shouldn't work for the state if you mainly work for money.

But I agree that if you work for money and not not for the society, it is easy to be attracted by lobbyists who can offer much better conditions...