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Recommendation on how the European Defence Agency handled the applications of its former Chief Executive to take on senior positions at Airbus (OI/3/2021/KR)

Tuesday | 13 July 2021

The Ombudsman conducted an inquiry on her own initiative into the decision of the European Defence Authority (EDA) to allow its former Chief Executive to take up two senior positions with Airbus, an aerospace company.

The Ombudsman’s inquiry also looked into how the EDA dealt with the fact that the former Chief Executive took up his new positions before the EDA had authorised him to do so, which is a breach of the EDA’s Staff Regulations.

The Ombudsman found that the conditions imposed on the former Chief Executive by the EDA in its authorising decision were insufficient when measured against the risks, and could not be monitored and enforced. There were also shortcomings in how the EDA assessed the risk of conflicts of interest.

The EDA should have instead applied stronger conditions and forbidden the former Chief Executive from taking up the position which gave rise to the greatest risk of conflict with the EDA’s legitimate interest. Not doing so amounted to maladministration by the EDA.

Based on these findings, the Ombudsman issued two recommendations:

(i) In future, the EDA should forbid its senior staff from taking up positions after their term of office where a clear conflict of interest arises with the legitimate interests of the EDA;

(ii) The EDA should set out the criteria for forbidding such moves, in order to give clarity to senior staff. Applicants for senior EDA posts should be informed of the criteria when they apply.

Decision in case 2168/2019/KR on the European Banking Authority’s decision to approve the request from its Executive Director to become CEO of a financial lobby group

Wednesday | 18 November 2020

The case concerned the decision of the European Banking Authority (EBA) to allow its Executive Director to take up a position as CEO of a lobby group.

The Ombudsman found two instances of maladministration and made three recommendations to avoid similar issues arising in future.

First, the EBA should, where necessary, invoke the option of forbidding its senior staff from taking up certain positions after their term-of-office. Any such prohibition should be time-limited, for example, for two years.

Second, the EBA should set out criteria for when it will forbid such moves in future so as to give clarity to senior staff. Applicants for senior EBA posts should be informed of the criteria when they apply.

Third, the EBA should put in place internal procedures so that once it is known that a member of its staff is moving to another job, their access to confidential information is cut off with immediate effect.

The Ombudsman closed the inquiry after the EBA accepted her recommendations and adopted measures to implement them.

The Ombudsman is confident that the policies the EBA has introduced will help it avoid damaging revolving door moves in the future. Other EU institutions and agencies should draw on these new EBA safeguards when revising their own rules.