Monday, 22 February 2010

Revolving doors: Ferrero-Waldner joins insurance giant Munich Re

The new European Commission (Barroso-II) took office on 10 February. Just seven dayslater insurance giant Munich Re announced that they had headhunted the out-going EU Commissioner for external relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner (2004-2010).

Ferrero-Waldner is to join the supervisory board of Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurance firm. Rumours about Ferrero-Waldner's next career move have been circulating for a while in the Austrian press and Ferrero-Waldner had confirmed that she was considering a move to oil giant OMV (to lobby for the Nabucco pipeline project) as well as an un-named Spanish company.

What the press coverage failed to mention was the need for Ferrero Waldner to clear conflicts of interest checks as outlined in the Code of Conduct before taking up a new job. In the first year after leaving, ex-Commissioners need to notify the Commission and get permission for their planned job moves. This lack of concern may reflect the fact that the Commission has previously shown itself not to be very strict on these matters, approving revolving doors cases despite clear conflicts of interest. During the transition from the Prodi to the Barroso Commission in 2004, former EU Commissioner for health and consumer affairs Pavel Telicka was given permission to set up lobby firm BXL Consulting without any 'cooling off' period. BXL Consulting now lobbies for Microsoft, energy giant RWE and OKD Doprava, a Czech coal producer.

As EU Commissioner for external relations, Ferrero-Waldner was responsible for issues of direct interest to Munich Re, including decisions regarding the DESERTEC project in which Munich Re is involved. CEO has written to the Commission asking for clarification about how Ferrero-Waldner's job move (and possible conflicts of interest) was assessed.

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