The Great ‘Revolvers’ – The Revolving Door Effect in European Energy and Climate Policy

A new study, launched today during the Climate Change Conference in Bonn, finds that revolving doors in Europe are a widespread phenomenon. Although the research is far from being exhaustive, only in the 13 countries that was covered, 88 cases of revolving doors could be identified - all of these specifically in the fossil fuels sector.

The study in which Energiaklub was a co-author, was commissioned by the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament.

The term “revolving doors” refers to individuals that move from positions in public office to private organisations in the same sector, and vice-versa. Through the revolving door phenomenon, the danger is that the public interest can be twisted in favour of private companies, and hence, it can contribute to corruption, particularly when these interactions are neither regulated nor made transparent.

The main findings of the report and the case studies:

  • In most EU countries, there are severe gaps in the legislation, enforcement mechanisms are weak or inexistent, and the rules can be easily flouted.
  • Most of the cases involve Ministers and Secretaries of State, advisors, cabinet officials and other high-level civil servants. There are also instances of former Prime Ministers and regulators.
  • For instance Günther Oettinger, a German politician who is now an EU Commissioner, is known for example for his close ties to the oil industry
  • In Hungary, e.g. János Süli, the Minister without Portfolio responsible for the planning, construction and commissioning of the two new blocks at Paks Nuclear Power Plant, held various high-level positions at the Paks Nuclear Power Plant from 1986 to 2011.
  • Dr András Aradszki,  State Secretary for Energy, Ministry for National Development between 2010 and 2014, worked for MOL from 1991 to 2014.
  • If we are to be serious about meeting the goals of the Paris climate agreement, conflicts of interest in climate policy-making must be tackled.
  • A minimum cooling-off period of 3 years between positions in the public and private sectors is needed to reduce the unwanted impacts of revolving doors.

For too long, the same fossil fuel companies that have downplayed, rejected, or only paid lip service to the effects of climate change .This has led hundreds of civil society organisations and almost 70 countries to call for a conflicts of interest policy to ensure that private companies with a vested interest in weak climate policy are not given a dominant role in climate policy-making.

The report finds that the lines between the regulated and regulators are continuously and consistently blurred and that there are inadequate legislative provisions in place to prevent conflicts of interest from contaminating the policy-making process.

The prevalence of the revolving door phenomenon across Europe is so widespread that, in just 13 countries, and specifically in the fossil fuel sector, at least 88 cases of revolving doors were documented.

In the countries assessed, 28 cases of revolving doors were identified between Ministers, Prime Ministers or Deputy Prime Ministers or Secretaries of State and energy companies, while 22 cases involved Members of Parliament, regional politicians or political party chairs. Cases include:

  • Günther Oettinger, a German politician who is now an EU Commissioner, is known for example for his close ties to the oil industry.
  • János Süli, the Minister without Portfolio responsible for the planning, construction and commissioning of the two new blocks at Paks Nuclear Power Plant, held various high-level positions at the Paks Nuclear Power Plant from 1986 to 2011.
  • Dr András Aradszki,  State Secretary for Energy, Ministry for National Development between 2010 and 2014, worked for MOL from 1991 to 2014.
  • In Austria, Hans Jörg Schelling, former Minister of Finance made headlines when he joined Gazprom as an adviser. Wolfgang Schüssel, a former Chancellor joined RWE, a German energy giant.
  • In Poland, Marek Woszczyk was the President of the Energy Regulation Office between 2011-2013, then he moved directly from the office regulating the energy sector to the largest energy sector company, PGE.
  • In Spain, 58 former Ministers and senior party officials held posts as Directors or senior officials of Spain's leading companies in 2016, 26 of them in the energy sector.
  • In the UK, nearly 90% of people leaving the Department of Energy and Climate Change took up jobs in the energy sector, that  includes 6 former Energy Ministers.
  • In the Czech Republic, in the current government in resignation led by Andrej Babiš, six out of fifteen members were in high managerial positions in the private sector during the past five years or less. In recent years, two out of five former Prime Ministers have transferred to the private sector after leaving office.
  • In France, Current Prime Minister Edouard Philippe went from being Head of Public Affairs at Areva, to Mayor of Le Havre in 2010. 2 years later he became an MP.

Significance of the dirty energy sector in climate change

91% of global industrial GHG emissions in 2015 was connected to the fossil fuel industry

Half of all global industrial emissions since 1988 can be attributed to 25 corporate and State producing entities, including Total, BP, Lukoil, Gazprom, Shell and Poland Coal.

Not only do these companies possess significant economic heft within the countries’ economies, but they also wield important lobbying power: at EU level, the gas industry in 2016 spent over €100m on lobbying, compared to less than 3% by public interest groups working against an expansion of gas infrastructure.

 

If you have any comments or questions, write to the author!
Fülöp Orsolya fulop@energiaklub.hu