Commission backs Ryanair role for McCreevy

 

THE EUROPEAN Commission has cleared the way for newly retired commissioner Charlie McCreevy to join the Ryanair board, but restricted his work as a director to avoid any perception of a conflict of interest.

Mr McCreevy left the commission in February and he is set to join the airline’s board as his former employer conducts seven long-running state aid inquiries into some of its contracts with European airports.

He will not be allowed advise Ryanair on any case involving its business which came before the EU executive’s internal markets division during his time as commissioner, which began in late 2004. “He should refrain from giving advice on any live case on Ryanair during his five years,” a commission spokesman said.

The restriction was imposed on Mr McCreevy by the 27-member commission yesterday, on foot of an examination by an ad hoc ethics committee.

For one year after his retirement, Mr McCreevy is obliged to inform the commission whenever he proposes to take up a job. An ethics committee is established as a matter of routine in cases where issues may arise.

While the state aid inquiries into Ryanair’s airport contracts are being overseen by the competition and transport divisions in the commission, other commissioners frequently have an input into cases managed by their colleagues.

The EU executive “stressed in the decision” that Mr McCreevy was not “lead commissioner” in any of the commission’s files on Ryanair in the last five years, the commission spokesman said.

The decision prevents Mr McCreevy from providing advice to the airline “where it would relate to a case involving Ryanair on which he or his cabinet or the directorate general for internal markets have been consulted during his term of office”, he added .

“There are no elements which point to the existence of a conflict of interest, but so as not to create the perception of any conflict of interest it would be better if he abstained.”

Asked how the commission would ensure there was no breach of the restriction, the spokesman said: “We look to the ex-commissioners to behave with integrity basically, and we’re confident that they will.”

All incoming commissioners sign a solemn undertaking to behave with integrity and discretion during and after their appointment.

Ryanair declined to say whether it would allow Mr McCreevy to restrict his board activities.