Through the revolving door: politicians for sale at a discount

Barroso.GoldmanSachs

 

US Investment Bank Goldman Sachs announced last week that it had “hired” former EU Commission Chairman Josè Manuel Barroso as an advisor and non-executive Chairman of the Goldman Sachs International arm.

The New York Times quoting co-CEOs of Goldman Sachs International Michael Sherwood and Richard J. Gnoddle explained the relevance of the appointment as being “Josè Manuel’s immense insights and experience including a deep understanding of Europe”. Earlier this week, the EU Observer  further commented that Goldman Sachs hired Barroso “as it struggles with the fallout from Britain’s vote to leave the EU”.

Based in London but offering services across Europe, Goldman Sachs may be faced with limited or no access to the EU’s single market as a result of Brexit. Hence the need to hire Barroso as an advisor and lobbyist as the United Kingdom and the European Union prepare for the negotiations leading to the UK’s exit from the European Union which can be triggered any time in the forthcoming weeks through a declaration in terms of article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Barroso’s engagement with Goldman Sachs is one which will be much debated as, like nine other members of the Commission which he led between 2009 and 2014, he has been catapulted into the corporate boardroom through the revolving door. His value to Goldman Sachs is his knowledge of the privileged information to which he had access during his 10-year tenure as President of the EU Commission and, the influence which he may still have on a number of key EU officials.  This gives great value to his advisory/lobbying role with Goldman Sachs.

European Union regulations on the possible activities of its former Commission members draw a cut-off line after an 18-month cooling-off period at the end of their tenure when, as stated by an EU Commission spokesperson, “there is a reasonable assumption that the access to privileged information or possible influence are no longer an issue”.   This is contested by the different political groupings in the EU Parliament who maintain that the cooling-off period for EU Commissioners taking up sensitive jobs after ceasing their duties as Commissioners should be extended from 18 months to five years as the present length of time is insufficient to ensure that the EU is really the servant of ordinary people and not of multinational corporations or international financial institutions.

This debate at a European Union level contrasts to the provisions of the Standards in Public Life Bill currently being debated by the Maltese Parliament which Bill, so far, does not make any provision on the regulation of lobbying in Malta in any form or format.

It is not unheard of in Malta for politicians to move through the revolving door from the Cabinet to the private sector boardroom or its anteroom, and back again. Three such cases of former Cabinet Ministers in Malta in the recent past come to mind : John Dalli and his involvement with the Corinthia Group and later the Marsovin Group, Karmenu Vella who similarly was heavily involved first with the Corinthia Group and subsequently with the Orange Travel Group as well as with Betfair and finally Tonio Fenech’s recent involvement in the financial industry.

Being unregulated, lobbying through the revolving door is not illegal but it can still be unethical and unacceptable in a modern democratic society as it can result in undue influence of corporations over the regulatory authorities.

Piloting the debate on the Standards in Public Life Bill on Monday 11 July, Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech recognised the deficiencies of the Bill and declared that a register of lobbyists in Malta was a necessity. While this is a welcome statement and a significant first step forward, it is certainly not enough, as a proper regulation of lobbying in Malta is long overdue. This involves much more than registration of lobbyists or even the regulation of revolving door recruitment in both the private and the public sector.

If done properly, lobbying is perfectly legitimate. It is perfectly reasonable for any citizen, group of citizens, corporations or even NGOs to seek to influence decision-taking. In fact it is done continuously and involves the communication of views and information to legislators and administrators by those who have an interest in informing them of the impacts of the decisions under consideration. It is perfectly legitimate that individuals, acting on their own behalf or else acting on behalf of third parties, should seek to ensure that decision-takers are well informed before taking the required decisions.

However, for lobbying to be acceptable in a democratic society, it must be done transparently. In particular, through regulation it must be ensured  that lobbying should not be transformed into a  process through which the decision-takers make way for the representatives or advisors of corporations to take their place. Lobbying activities must be properly documented and the resulting documentation must be publicly accessible.

Hopefully, Parliament will take note and act.

 

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday: 17 July 2016

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Brexit u l-artiklu 50 tat-trattat ta’ Liżbona

house-of-commons

 

Fil-Qrati Ingliżi infetaħ l-ewwel kaz dwar ir-referendum Ingliż. Il-Guardian illum tirrapporta li saret l-ewwel talba lill-Qrati Ingliżi li issostni illi l-Prim Ministru Ingliż m’għandux id-dritt li jibda l-proċess tal-ħruġ tar-Renju Unit mill-Unjoni Ewropeja mingħajr ma l-ewwel ikollu l-approvazzjoni tal-Parlament.

Uħud qed jinterpretaw dan bħala li l-Parlament Ingliż jista’ jkollu l-poter li jmur kontra x-xewqat ta-elettorat kif espress fir-riżultat tar-referendum tat-23 ta’ Ġunju. Ċertament li dan mhux il-każ. Għax għalkemm fis-sistema legali Ingliża l-Parlament hu suprem din is-supremazija legali mhux ser tintuża kontra r-rieda popolari espressa b’mod daqstant ċar mill-elettorat.

X’ser jiġri issa hu diffiċli biex tgħid. Imma hu possibli li jekk il-Qrati Ingliżi jaċċettaw it-talba li qed issirilhom u jiddeċiedu li qabel ma issir id-dikjarazzjoni skond l-artiklu 50 tat-Trattat ta’ Liżbona jkun hemm il-kunsens tal-Parlament, il-Gvern ewroxekkitiku tar-Renju Unit (immexxi minn Theresa May jew Andrea Leadsom) ikun soġġett għal Parlament li fil-maġġoranza tiegħu hu magħmul minn Membri Parlamentari li m’humiex favur il-ħruġ tar-Renju Unit mill-Unjoni Ewropeja.

Dan jista’ jwassal għal diversi kundizzjonijiet li possibilment ikun jista’ jimponi l-Parlament. Fosthom li kull ftehim dwar il-ħruġ tar-Renju Unit mill-Unjoni Ewropeja jkun soġġett għall-approvazzjoni tal-istess Parlament! Dan bla dubju joħloq problemi kbar għall-applikazzjoni tal-artiklu 50 tat-trattat ta’ Liżbona. Ikun ifisser ukoll li neċessarjament ikun meħtieg perjodu ta’ negozjati qabel ma jkun applikat l-artiklu 50. Għax minkejja li l-Kummissjoni Ewropeja ma tridx tinnegozja dwar dan, it-trattat ta’ Liżbona ma jagħmilx limitazzjoni ta’ din ix-xorta.

Imma bla dubju jekk dan iseħħ ikun qed jagħti l-poter kompletament f’idejn il-Parlament u jassoġġetta lill-Gvern tal-ġurnata għall-iskrutinju strett tal-istess Parlament. Użat b’mod responsabbli, dan il-poter bla dubju jista’ jwassal għal żviluppi interessanti.

Wara Barroso min?

Muscat + Junker

Għamel tajjeb il-Gvern Malti li ħabbar illi f’dan l-istadju ser jappoġġa l-kandidatura  tal-ex Prim Ministru tal-Lussemburgu Jean Claude Junker biex dan ikun is-suċċessur ta’ Josè Manuel Barroso. Il-posizzjoni tal-Gvern Malti tirrispetta dak li jipprovdi t-trattat ta’ Liżbona u li ser ikun implimentat għall-ewwel darba issa: fl-għażla tal-President tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja, il-Kunsill Ewropew [kompost mill-Kapijiet tal-Gvernijiet] għandu jirrispetta r-riżultat elettorali tal-Parlament Ewropew.

Il-posizzjoni li ħa l-Gvern Malti hi posizzjoni tajba mhux biss għax tirrispetta t-trattat ta’ Liżbona, iżda fuq kollox għax dan qed isir fil-konfront ta’ rappreżentant ta’ partit politiku differenti minn dak li jappartjeni għalih  il-partit fil-Gvern f’Malta. Huwa tajjeb li l-ispirtu Ewropew qed isaħħah  l-għeruq f’pajjiżna ukoll!  Jidher, mid-dikjarazzjonijiet ta’ Joseph Muscat, illi Jean Claude Junker ta’ assigurazzjonijiet lill-Gvern Malti illi l-programm tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja mmexxija minnu ser tagħti attenzjoni u enerġija lil proposti dwar l-immigrazzjoni skond ix-xewqa tal-Gvernijiet diversi fil-Mediterran, fuq quddiem net Malta u l-Italja. Dan hu pass tajjeb. Prosit.

Il-Kunsill Ewropew mistenni li jieħu deċiżjoni dwar is-suċċessur ta’ Barroso fis-summit ta’ tmiem ix-xahar. S’issa għadu mhux ċar jekk il-proposta tal-ħatra ta’ Junker hux ser tkun approvata u dan minħabba li hemm numru ta’ Gvernijiet Ewropej li iddikjaraw jew indikaw li ma jaqblux ma dan.

L-iktar li semma’ leħnu kien David Cameron Prim Ministru ta’ dak li sa issa hu r-Renju Unit. Cameron qed jopponi l-ħatra ta’ Junker minħabba l-politika federalist tiegħu (ta’ Junker) li Cameron iqies bħala ostaklu kbir għall-posizzjoni ta’ Cameron li l-Unjoni Ewropeja iżżarma kemm tista’ mir-regolamenti tagħha li ma jikkonċernawx il-kummerċ!

Cameron mhux waħdu. Għandu l-appoġġ tal-Gvernijiet tal-Isvezja, l-Olanda u l-Ungerija.

L-anqas Matteo Renzi, għall-Gvern Taljan, ma jidher li hu kuntent bin-nomina ta’ Junker.

Jekk dawn hux ser jibqgħu waħedhom jew jekk hux ser jiżdiedu fl-opposizzjoni għall-ħatra ta’ Junker għadu ftit kmieni biex inkunu nafu. Imma huwa importanti għax il-ħatra ta’ Junker teħtieġ l-approvazzjoni ta’ maġġoranza kwalifikata: 55% tal-pajjizi membri li jirrappreżentaw 65% tal-popolazzjoni Ewropeja.

Jekk il-Kunsill Ewropew japprova l-ħatra ta’ Jean Claude Junker bħala President tal-Kummissjoni Ewropeja, imbagħad ikun imiss l-approvazzjoni tal-Parlament Ewropew. Fil-Parlament Ewropew l-opinjonijiet huma ħafna iktar ikkuluriti. Għalissa xejn ma hu assigurata, l-anqas hemm.  Wara l-aħħar ta’ dan ix-xahar, kif ukoll meta l-programm politiku ta’ Junker ikun magħruf imbagħad l-affarijiet ikunu ftit iktar ċari.

Nistennew u naraw.

ippubblikat fuq iNews: it-Tlieta 17 ta’ Ġunju 2014

Parlament tad-dilettanti?

parlament

Il-Parlament hemm bżonn li jkun full-time.  Ma jistax ikun li nibqgħu b’Parlament tad-dilettanti. B’Membri Parlamentari li l-prijorita’ tagħhom hi l-professjoni jew ix-xogħol tagħhom.

Min għalih il-professjoni hi iktar importanti mill-Parlament jagħmel tajjeb li jiddedika l-ħin tiegħu jew tagħha għall-professjoni u jħalli s-siġġu tal-Parlament għal min hu lest li jagħti prijorita’ lill-ħidma Parlamentari.

Bħalissa għandna Parlament li fost il-Membri tiegħu għandu min il-prijorita’ tiegħu hi li  jara lill-klijenti fil-klinka jekk tabib, jew fl-uffiċċju jekk avukat jew Perit jew xi xogħol ieħor. Imbagħad, x’ħin ilesti, u  jekk ikunu baqa’ ħin imur il-Parlament.

Il-konsegwenza ta’ dan tidher fil-ħidma tal-Parlament, għax il-Parlament xogħolu m’hux jagħmlu, għax ħin biżżejjed x’jiddedika m’għandux.

Il-Parlament Malti hu l-uniku wieħed fl-Unjoni Ewropeja li ma kienx kapaċi jirreaġixxi fid-dettall meħtieġ  għal mijiet ta’ proposti ta’ liġi tal-Unjoni Ewropeja. Dan id-dritt li inkiseb bit-trattat ta’ Liżbona u li permezz tiegħu l-Parlamentari tal-Istati Membri jistgħu jinfluwenzaw u f’xi każi jwaqqfu leġislazzjoni Ewropeja għalina l-Maltin qiesu ma jeżistix għax il-Parlament Malti huwa wieħed tal-part-timers. Parlament tad-dilettanti.

Il-Prim Ministru Joseph Muscat waqqaf Bord  biex jagħtih proposti dwar kif għandhom ikunu imfassla s-salarji ta’ dawk li jokkupaw uffiċċju politiku. Din il-Kummissjoni li hi magħmula mill-Ombudsman, l-Awditur Ġenerali u l-Uffiċjal Elettorali Ewlieni, l-bieraħ t-Tlieta 15 t’Ottubru iltaqgħet ma’ Alternattiva Demokratika.

Jiena u Arnold Cassola tkellimna magħhom fit-tul u fissirnielhom il-proposti fil-programm elettorali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika. L-ewwel fosthom li l-Parlament jeħtieġ li ikun wieħed ta’ full-timers u li l-Membri Parlamentari m’għandhom jagħmlu l-ebda xogħol ieħor għajr dak tal-Parlament.

Dan ifisser li m’għandhomx jinħatru fuq Bordijiet tal-Gvern, kif sar dan l-aħħar. Biex inkun preċiz mhux issa biss sar dan. Sar ukoll fi żmien Gvernijiet oħra. Imma issa sar fuq skala ikbar milli sar fi żminijiet oħra.

Ifisser ukoll li l-Membri Parlamentari jkollhom iktar ħin biex jagħmlu dak li suppost jagħmlu, jiġifieri li jiflu l-ħidma tal-Gvern.

F’Parlament tad-dilettanti l-Gvern jagħmel li jrid. F’Parlament fejn il-membri jkollhom il-ħin biex xogħolhom jagħmluh il-Gvern jimxi ħafna aħjar.

Dan hu l-Parlament li jixirqilna bħala pajjiż, mhux Parlament tad-dilettanti.

Ara ukoll l-istqarrija ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika li tinkludi l-proposti kollha sottomessi. Agħfas hawn.