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Monday 27 February 2017

Cox potential conflicts of interest centre of European probe

Independent.ie reporters

Failed Fine Gael presidential hopeful Pat Cox is at the centre of an EU transparency probe.

The European ombudsman said today that the European Commission failed to disclose his outside activities when hiring him as a special adviser.

Mr Cox, a former European Parliament president, provided consumer policy advice to the then Commission consumer chief Meglena Kuneva, a position he held from 2007 to 2009.

The position was unpaid.

But anti-lobbying group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) alleges that the European Commission failed to obtain or publish the full details of Mr Cox’s outside activities, including positions held with Microsoft, Pfizer, Michelin and APCO, a Brussels lobbying firm, before employing him.

EU rules require all special advisers to sign a sworn statement declaring no conflicts of interest and produce a declaration of activities identifying all other positions held before they are taken on by the Commission.

But these documents were not obtained by Ms Kuneva or the Commission before appointing Mr Cox in 2007, the ombudsman found.

The documents were eventually signed and dated in 2009.

In a letter to ombudsman Nikoforos Diamandouros in 2009, Ms Kuneva said that she was fully aware of Mr Cox’s other activities before taking him on and that these were not incompatible with his position.

She added that Mr Cox provided “invaluable advice” on how to communicate consumer policy to citizens.

"Pat Cox is a high profile lobbyist in Brussels, working for multinationals like Pfizer, Michelin and Microsoft," Labour MEP Nessa Childers said on foot of the revelations.

"There is no evidence of any conflict of interest in this case, or any wrong doing on the part of Pat Cox. However, individuals who are employed as lobbyists for corporate interests should not be in any position to promote interests as advisers to the Commission."

Attempts to contact Mr Cox earlier today failed.

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