Transparency campaigners fear that a public relations (PR) firm that lobbies the EU on maritime issues has "bought up the top of the EU's maritime department lock, stock and barrel”, leads the EUObserver. This follows the recent appointment of Joe Borg to PR consultancy Fipra. Until 2009, the Brussels website reports, Maltese Mr Borg was the commissioner responsible for maritime affairs and fisheries. He joins former Commission colleague John Richardson, already working for Fipra as “maritime policy and diplomacy special advisor.”
Corporate Europe Observatory, the EU transparency watchdog, is critical of these developments. Pointing out that Fipra has failed to sign up to the Commission's lobbyist registry, Erik Wesselius of the group declared - "These two unacceptable revolving doors cases show that the commission's narrow interpretation makes the rules applying to former commissioners and commission staff totally irrelevant."
Despite Borg and Richardson’s claims that there is no overlap between their activities new and old, the EUobserver strikes a sceptical note regarding ex-commissioners moving into industries related to their former briefs. “A total so far of six of the 13 EU commissioners who retired this year have now gone on to work for banks, lobbying firms, insurance companies and airlines,” it writes. Ex-transport Commissioner Charlie McCreevy’s recent appointment to the board of Ryanair being one of the more highly publicised.
Indeed, regarding the maritime industry, “Mr Borg's old Maltese connections could certainly prove helpful”, the website notes. One of Fipra’s clients is Royal Caribbean Cruises. Cruise ships have moved their registration from the Caribbean to Europe in large numbers in recent years. Royal Caribbean for its part once registered many of its ships under “flags of convenience” in Liberia to avoid European and US regulation, but has begun to register in Malta. As Mr Borg declared during a speech at a Fipra dinner on 7 May in Malta, "Fipra and the European Commission have more in common than one might think.”