[DEBATE] : FT: EU adviser's role questioned - (Suez/Water)
Riaz K Tayob
riazt at iafrica.com
Tue Mar 6 14:51:13 GMT 2007
The European Commission yesterday disclosed a "List of Special Advisers
to the Commissioners and the President", 55 in total:
This Financial Times article zooms in on the four advisers to
Development Commissioner Louis Michel, in particular Etienne Davignon,
who is a member of the board of directors of Suez, the world largest
private water multinational. Davignon owns Suez shares worth more than
To be continued...
EU adviser's role questioned
By Andrew Bounds in Brussels
Published: March 6 2007 02:00 | Last updated: March 6 2007 02:00
A transparency group yesterday questioned the role of a leading
businessman as adviser to Europe's development chief as the European
Commission published the names of its special advisers for the first time.
Etienne Davignon, a director and shareholder in Suez, the Franco-Belgian
utility, is one of four advisers to Louis Michel, the EU development
Erik Wesselius, of Corporate Europe Observatory, a campaign group, said:
"Is it appropriate for a director of a company with an interest in
issues such as water privatisation to be advising the development
The list, published yesterday, says Mr Davignon advis-es Mr Michel on
Africa, "notably the role of the private sector in the development of
sub-Saharan Africa and to mobilise the private sector for development
Suez runs water and sanitation services in Johannesburg, supplies
drinking water in Senegal and collects waste in Morocco.
Mr Davignon was an EU commissioner in the 1980s.
Mr Michel's spokesman could not be reached for comment. A spokesman for
Mr Davignon said there was nothing unusual about the relationship. He
said: "He mainly passes on his experience as a commissioner. He also had
a role dealing with the foreign policy of Belgium, especially dealing
with the Congo [during independence talks]. He has no party political
Mr Davignon, 75, is also a director of Accor, the hotel company,
chairman of SN Brussels airlines and has 11,111 shares in Suez. He is
also one of several former commissioners who are co-ordinating big
transport projects for the Commission.
Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace prize winner and founder of the Grameen
bank in Bangladesh, also advises Mr Michel.
Another well-known figure is Günter Burghardt, a former Commission
ambassador to the US. He works in Brussels for the Washington lawyers
Mayer, Brown, Rowe and Maw, and advises Olli Rehn, the enlargement
com-missioner, on the Balkans.
Franco Frattini, the Italian justice commissioner, has 11 advisers, all
Italian. Only one, a human rights expert, Daniela Bas, is paid. The
others have helped in previous jobs in Italy, his spokesman said.
Nicholas Negroponte, the inventor of the $100 laptop, advises Jan Figel,
the education commissioner.
Siim Kallas, the anti-fraud commissioner, published the list after
pressure from non-governmental organisations and MEPs. He said the
Commission needed independent expert advice but should say who it came from.
In February, Rolf Linkohr, a power company lobbyist who advised Andris
Piebalgs, the energy commissioner, had his contract terminated for
failing to declare that he had no conflict of interest. Mr Linkohr, a
former MEP, says he was always transparent about his multiple roles and
was awaiting legal clarification before signing the document.
Two other special advisers had their contracts ended in January. They
included Dina Akkelidou, who was recruit-ed by Markos Kyprianou, the
Cypriot health commissioner, after she resigned as a cabinet minister
when convicted of trying to influence a court case. Her conviction was
overturnedand this January she won a seat as an MP in Cyprus. Mr
Kyprianou then asked her to leave, his spokesman said, as this posed a
conflict of interest.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
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