Advisory role for Cox is defended

Tue, Sep 1, 2009, 01:00

EU APPOINTMENT:THE EUROPEAN Commission has defended the appointment of Pat Cox as a special adviser after suggestions his corporate activities could lead to a conflict of interest.

“I was fully aware of Mr Cox’s activities when I examined the possible conflicts of interest. I do not consider these activities to be incompatible with his tasks at the commission,” said consumer affairs commission Meglena Kuneva in a letter responding to a complaint lodged by a Dutch NGO.

Ms Kuneva appointed Mr Cox, who is head of the Ireland for Europe campaign for a Yes vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum, as an unpaid special adviser to the EU executive in April 2007 to help her communicate consumer policy.

The appointment prompted the Dutch-based NGO Corporate Observatory Europe, which is dedicated to boosting transparency in EU activities, to complain

In a letter to the commission yesterday, the NGO details its concerns that Mr Cox’s corporate ties with Microsoft, Pfizer and Michelin and a Brussels-based lobbying firm called APCO could influence commission policy.

Corporate Observatory Europe also strongly criticises a decision by the commission not to make public a declaration of activities to highlight the extent of Mr Cox’s corporate links.

EU anti-fraud commissioner Siim Kallas responded to this aspect of the complaint for the commission. In a letter dated June 23rd he said the declaration of activities of special advisers was excluded from publication due to data protection rules.

Mr Cox told The Irish Times last night that he was not a lobbyist and the commission had been fully informed about all his corporate activities before he took up the position. He sat on several advisory boards for corporations such as Microsoft and was listed as sitting on an advisory council for the lobbying firm APCO but he had never lobbied any EU institution with APCO and his work with the commission never touched on the formulation of EU policy.