EU investigates new Facebook lobby job

The European Commission has not yet granted a former policy adviser permission to work as a lobbyist for Facebook, a spokesman told me today.

“Any announcement that might have been made in this respect is without prejudice to the Commission’s final assessment and decision,” he said.

Yesterday, Aura Salla proudly announced on Twitter she was joining the American tech giant – after the career move was published by Politico Europe. “I will start as Public Policy Director, Head of EU Affairs, leading the Brussels policy team and our work with EU Institutions for Facebook 18th of May. I am thrilled about joining Facebook and leading the team of talented policy pros in Brussels.”

A look at her LinkedIn-page shows that she was working for the European Commission as recently as February. Her job title was Foreign Policy Adviser, and her portfolio included cyber security, hybrid threats, disinformation and election interference. These are issues that are highly relevant to Facebook. For her to join Facebook as a lobbyist so soon after leaving the Commission, poses some conflict of interest worries.

The NGO Corporate Europe Observatory quickly filed a freedom of information request to know more about this ‘revolving door’ case.

The EU’s staff regulation has rules on taking up new jobs after quitting as an EU civil servant. In this case, article 16 is relevant:

Officials intending to engage in an occupational activity, whether gainful or not, within two years of leaving the service shall inform their institution thereof using a specific form. If that activity is related to the work carried out by the official during the last three years of service and could lead to a conflict with the legitimate interests of the institution, the appointing authority may, having regard to the interests of the service, either forbid him from undertaking it or give its approval subject to any conditions it thinks fit. The appointing authority shall, after consulting the Joint Committee, notify its decision within 30 working days of being so informed. If no such notification has been made by the end of that period, this shall be deemed to constitute implicit acceptance.

I asked a Commission spokesman to comment. He said:

Under the Staff Regulations (Article 16), for 2 years after leaving the service, a former staff member wishing to perform occupational activities after leaving the service must inform Commission to receive authorisation. This also applies temporary staff. Ms Salla declared to the Commission her intention to engage in a new occupational activity.

The Commission is examining the request of Ms Salla in line with its established thorough procedures and will notify Ms Salla of its decision in due time. The Commission does not comment on ongoing procedures.

Any announcement that might have been made in this respect is without prejudice to the Commission’s final assessment and decision.

It is not the first time that a Commission staff member goes through the so-called revolving door, an issue which I discuss in my latest book (currently only available in Dutch: Het lijkt Washington wel: Hoe lobbyisten Brussel in hun greep hebben).

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