Henrik Hololei actions prompt European Commission regulations change

Henrik Hololei.
Henrik Hololei. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The actions of an Estonian European Commission Director General have prompted the commission to alter its rules relating to conflict of interest adjudication, ETV's Brussel's correspondent Joosep Värk reports, for "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK).

The news follows reports by news portal Politico that Henrik Hololei, Director General of the EU's Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport, had taken several trips to the Gulf State of Qatar, over a number of years, which were paid for either by that state or organizations linked to it.

Hololei himself had adjudged that this did not represent a conflict of interest, and was not infringing commission rules at the time, in so doing.

Now the commission will revise the regime on this area.

European Commission spokesperson Dana Spinach said: "In order to ensure due diligence in the application of the rules and thus exclude any potential conflict of interest, directors general and heads of service should consult the head of office and the responsible commissioner when acting as authorizing officers by delegation, while approving their own missions and authorized travel being paid in part or in full by the organizers or third parties."

While the European Commission stressed that Hololei had not acted inappropriately, some facts of the matter as raised by Politico had raised eyebrows, in Brussels itself as well as in Hololei's native Estonia.

Irishwoman Suzanne Lynch, Politico's chief Brussels correspondent, told ETV that: "From the beginning of this scandal, the European Commission has insisted that all rules were followed and that the potential for any conflict of interest was excluded."

"But this week, we found out that the person that adjudicated on that, the person who judged whether conflict of interest was an issue here, was the director general himself. I think that was a big twist in this story."

"So I think we got the impression here in Brussels that a number of European officials were shocked that this practice was happening, but the very fact that the commission only had guidelines and didn't have rules in place, I think point to a broader issue about the lack of transparency and clear rules around travel in the EC. Already this week we saw that the EU ombudsman Emily O'Reilly had opened an investigation into the whole issue of travel and transparency, within the commission," Lynch went on.

Hololei had flown business class during the trips in question, which were mostly concentrated around the time of EU-Qatar Open Skies Agreement negotiations, and had reportedly also had his accommodation paid for.

Hololei has declined to comment, both to Politico and the international media, and to AK.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mari Peegel

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera'

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