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MICHEL PETITE In and out through the revolving door

Former head of EU legal services Michel Petite today serves Philip Morris - Swedish Match’s US partners - through the Clifford Chance firm. Controversially he sits on Barroso’s ethics committee on transparency and lobbying

27 April 2013, 12:00am
Michel Petite (centre)
Michel Petite (centre)


PROFILE • FROM TOBACCO TACTICS

Petite (b. 1947) starts his career the EU institutions in 1975 and ends with six years as the Head of Legal Affairs at the European Council.

Since 2008, Petite works for Clifford Chance, where lobbies former colleagues on behalf of Phillip Morris. Despite this, he is still appointed head of the Ethics Committee responsible for monitoring conflicts of interest. Despite the worries of transparency campaigners in the aftermath of DalliGate, Petite was re-appointed in December 2012 for another three years.

His profile at the Clifford Chance website emphasises his broad experience in Brussels: At the Legal Service, Michel Petite was:  heading a staff of 200 providing advice to the Commission on proposed legislation, decisions and investigations, as well as representing the Commission at the European Court of Justice and at the World Trade Organisation. He was also a former legal adviser to three Commission Presidents: Jacques Delors, Romano Prodi (as Head of Cabinet), and José Manuel Barroso.

Petite's role at Clifford Chance includes lobbying. Talking about their "Political Advocacy Strategy', Clifford Chance tells potential clients: "You may be faced with the prospect of a regulatory development or policy decision that threatens the very nature of your business [...]

"You will need to know who to approach and when, and how best to represent your interests to government. You may need to track the progress of new legislation in your national Parliament or a proposal for a Directive in the EU institutions.

"We offer a blend of legal and political expertise and can assist in preparing position papers, approaching government or the EU institutions, campaigning, responding to public consultations, advising on the parliamentary and political process, and drafting and tabling amendments to proposed legislation."

Dalligate

Michel Petite engages in lobbying activity in the EU Commission on behalf of his clients. In December 2012 it was revealed that he had two meetings on behalf of Philip Morris with his former colleagues at Legal Affairs: two brief conversations took place with Legal Service officials.

Petite mentioned that his law firm provided legal advice to a tobacco company (Philip Morris International) and set out his views on some legal issues of tobacco legislation," after which "Director-General Luis Romero asked to be personally updated by Mr Petite of his legal counsel activities in this area" leading to a meeting on 14 November 2012.

On 14 January 2013, the EU-Watchdog organisation, Corporate Europe Observatory, along with Lobby Control and Corporate Accountability International, submitted a formal complaint to European Commission President Barroso over Petite's controversial re-appointment

The groups pointed out that "Article 4 of the 2003 Commission decision on establishing the ad hoc ethical committee states that the appointment of a member requires their 'independence, an impeccable record of professional behaviour as well as sound knowledge of the existing legal framework and working methods of the Commission'".

MEPs have also been critical of Petite's re-appointment. EPP deputy Inge Graessle said the decision was "lacking in instinct" and was an "impossible act". Green MEP José Bové, branded the appointment a "disgrace". "Rules have been put in place that are binding [in the] convention on tobacco control, which says that you cannot have relationships that are under the table. All EU member states have signed up to this. There are clear rules, and those rules have not been applied."