A Scottish MEP and the star of the BBC documentary series Trawlermen have criticised the pay-out that Joe Borg, the former European Commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, will be receiving over the next three years.
Under European rules, all former commissioners are entitled to between 40 and 65 per cent of their final basic salary for three years.
Dr Borg is entitled to 55 per cent of the €252,269 a year he earned over the five-year term he served as European commissioner. He will therefore receive a transitional allowance package of about €11,500 a month, before tax, until February 2013.
Dr Borg has just joined Fipra, a public relations consultancy firm that lobbies on maritime issues, but this may not even change anything, because the transitional allowance scheme provides for commissioners to earn up to a further €9,460 a month without their pay-out being affected.
Dr Borg’s mandate as European Commissioner came to an end on 31 December last year. When notifying the commission of his new post, Dr Borg reportedly said he is “in principle not going to advise clients on matters related to his former commission portfolio”. Dr Borg could not be contacted for comment.
Along with Dr Borg’s move, transparency campaigners have also questioned the position of Fipra maritime policy and diplomacy special adviser John Richardson, a former director in the EU’s maritime and fisheries department. He joined Fipra in September 2008.
Both cases were criticised by Corporate Europe Observatory, the EU transparency watchdog, which noted that Fipra has not even signed up to the European Commission’s lobbyist registry.
Erik Wesselius from Corporate Europe Observatory said: “These two unacceptable revolving doors’ cases show that the commission’s narrow interpretation makes the rules applying to former commissioners and commission staff totally irrelevant. Fipra appears to have bought up the top of the EU’s maritime department lock, stock and barrel”.
But Fipra chairman Peter Lehrell was quoted as saying about Dr Borg: “He will not be performing any tasks related to his past portfolio whatsoever, although I would like the right to go back to the commission and say: ‘Do you mind if we do? He was Maltese foreign minister for a while... I hired him because we don’t have any representation there and I need a good man in Malta”.
Dr Borg was Europe’s first commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, and a number of his decisions were controversial.
Scottish media quoted Jimmy Buchan, the star of the BBC documentary series Trawlermen, as saying that while many fishermen are going out of business, Dr Borg is earning as much as the average fisherman would earn in 15 years for doing nothing.
Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson also criticised the allowance, saying it is excessive and ridiculous, and described Dr Borg as “very employable”, particularly because he did a good job as commissioner and because he is a former Maltese minister. MEPs who fail to be re-elected get a six-month allowance to find a new job.