Corporate Europe Observatory’s reaction to a statement by Mr. Rolf Linkohr
Amsterdam, 20 February 2007
On the website of the Centre for European Energy Strategy (C.E.R.E.S.), Mr. Rolf Linkohr has published a statement in which he denies that his directorship at the commercial lobbying consultancy C.E.R.E.S. (having clients in the energy industry) conflicted with his role of special adviser to Energy Commissioner Piebalgs. This statement is also published as a letter to the editor of EurActiv.com under the title “‘Indecent campaign’ undermines energy debate.
In our letter to Commissioner Piebalgs of 16 January, Corporate Europe Observatory has raised concerns over what we perceived to be a conflict of interest of Mr. Linkohr. We based these concerns on the findings of our research for a report on nuclear industry lobbying in Brussels (published in December 2006). We considered the evidence against Mr. Linkohr serious enough to raise the issue with the Commission and we don’t see anything indecent in doing so.
Subsequently the Commission has looked into the issue and decided to take action. In a letter to CEO dated 15 February 2007 Commission Vice President Kallas summarises this as follows: “In January the Commission reminded all Special advisers of their obligations deriving from the Staff Rules to avoid conflicts of interest, and asked them to provide assurances that they were not in a situation of possible conflict of interest. Mr. Linkohr, Special adviser to Commissioner Piebalgs did not provide such assurances by the deadline. I therefore decided to terminate Mr. Linkohr’s contract as of 1 February 2007.”
In his statement, Mr. Linkohr argues that he has always been completely open about his role in advising companies. We strongly disagree. When CEO contacted the C.E.R.E.S. secretariat in December 2006 concerning their sources of funding, they told us that they work on the basis of contracts with companies that deal with energy. “We are not a non profit organisation like other think tanks”, they added. They refused to specify the names of those companies, saying they are “not obliged to do so”.
Mr. Linkohr argues that advisers should be anchored in a professional environment. However, there are many specialists on energy issues who are not directly employed or otherwise linked to particular energy companies. Mr. Linkohr’s example of Vattenfall CEO Lars Josefsson being recently appointed by German Chancellor Merkel as special adviser on energy issues, is ill-chosen. Mr. Josefsson’s appointment has been criticised in Germany precisely because he chairs a company that promotes nuclear energy and that runs some environmentally damaging lignite mines in Germany.
In the Green Paper on the European Transparency Initiative, lobbying is defined as “all activities carried out with the objective of influencing the policy formulation and decision-making processes of the European institutions.” There is no doubt that Mr. Linkohr’s activities as director of C.E.R.E.S. fall under this definition and therefore we consider it appropriate to describe him as a “lobbyist for the nuclear industry”.
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