EU Institutions

Michel Petite talks about him again

(BRUSSELS2 – exclusive) The former legal director of the Commission, who left after retirement to work at a law and consultancy firm, but still a member of the Commission's ethics committee, is in the news again.

In a letter addressed to several MEPs, Michel Petite thus defends with strong legal arguments the fact of adjusting the regime of the Horizon 2020 program (research) for the defense industry. His arguments are convincing. The man remained a fine lawyer. And, basically, we might be tempted to agree with him. It is indeed absurd to treat industries which have security requirements and others on the same level.

But… there’s a catch!

Officially, Michel Petite is a member of the ethics committee of the European Commission responsible for deciding on the future of commissioners (and senior officials) after their functions. At the beginning of the year, the spokesperson also emphasized that Michel Petite was “well lawyer and not lobbyist “, adding” What is essential is not to have a conflict of interest " (read : An ethical issue...). Last May, the Commission spokesperson persisted, even though proof was provided that Mr. Petite intervened in the Dalli affair as counsel for the tobacco company, Swedish Match, believing that this has nothing to do with his functions (read: Ethics Committee: the Commission does not renounce Michel Petite).

This missive to MEPs proves that there is more than a small problem. Not only does Mr. Petite not intervene as a lawyer but rather a lobbyist, on a current European legislative file. And this no longer seems an isolated case – to point out a legality problem (at least that is the version) – but to defend a position by trying to influence legislation. The red line seems to have been crossed...

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).