Diederik Samsom got a new job, without the required permission. EPA-EFE/ROB ENGELAAR


EU Green Deal architect takes top job with Dutch gas firm — without EC permission


Diederik Samsom, one of the architects of the European Green Deal, has raised eyebrows after joining the board of Gasunie, a Dutch gas company, as chairman.

He reportedly accepted the role without the required permission of the European Commission.

On June 26, Samsom announced he had taken up the position with the State-owned Dutch firm.

After surprise about a staunch climate activist working for a gas firm, it then turned out that Samsom had broken EC rules, investigative publication Follow the Money reported.

European employment regulations designed to avoid the possibility of conflict of interest stipulate that outgoing officials have to ask permission when they want to take up a new job that is related to their prior one. Samsom left the EC in June after five years in a key role under two EU climate Commissioners — Frans Timmermans and Wopke Hoekstra.

In Samsom’s case, the rules seem particularly relevant given his influential role regarding climate and energy, something that was praised in a press statement by Gasunie: “With his wide-ranging knowledge of both the domestic and the international energy sector, and his extensive experience with energy and climate policy as a member of the Dutch Parliament and senior European Commission official, he is ideally equipped to make a significant contribution to Gasunie realising its strategic ambitions, especially now that the company plays a key role in the energy transition.”

Daniel Freund, co-chair in the European Parliament Intergroup on Anti-Corruption, told Brussels Signal:”This is another shocking revolving-door case. This will keep happening if we don’t enforce the rules. One thing should be clear: No follow-up job without Commission approval!”

Asked about the apparent violation, the office of European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly told Brussels Signal it would not comment.

Earlier, EC spokesperson Olof Gill said the EU executive was “assessing the request for approval in line with standard procedures”.

Samsom is set to begin his new job on July 1, despite not having received the required permission from the EC.

Asked by Follow the Money, a Commission spokesperson said they were only informed of the matter after Gasunie made the announcement.

Samsom said the permission issue was a mistake on his behalf: “Due to an error on my part, the position was not properly notified to the Commission on time”, adding, “I deeply regret that.”

The EC still has to make a final judgement about the move but concerns remain as his work as right-hand man of Timmermans on the Green Deal and other environmental legislation equips him with useful information for firms in the gas industry seeking to improve their competitive position.

It has been noted that Samsom received lobbyists from Gasunie as Timmermans’ cabinet chief.

As a departing top official, Samsom is subject to a one-year general lobbying ban. Gasunie claimed its chairman plays “no role” in the company’s lobbying activities.

Samsom told Follow the Money: “There is no potential conflict of interest in this supervisory role on the supervisory board of a State-owned enterprise with my previous role as a Commission official. So I await in confidence the Commission’s proceedings, which are now under way.”

On social media, many in the Netherlands have referred to the so-called “jobs carousel” where politicians and officials repeatedly switch between influential and lucrative positions, often within the same or similar circles.

Vicky Cann, a campaigner at Corporate Europe Observatory, told Politico: “Yet another shocking Commission revolving-door case which raises significant questions about how seriously officials take the rules.

“New jobs should not be announced by new employers if the role has not been authorised, and for such a senior official to do this sets a really bad example and piles pressure on an already weak Commission ethics system to acquiesce and accept the role. This also could make a mockery of any conditions the Commission might choose to apply, as presumably contracts have already been signed,” she said.

Some also question Samsom’s personal convictions – as a student, he was a zealous Greenpeace activist who protested loudly against the oil and gas industry.