Brussels (dpa) – After awarding an advisory contract to the American investor Blackrock, the European Commission received a harsh reprimand from the European ombudsman. MEPs are calling for the Blackrock contract to be terminated.
The Brussels authority should have investigated potential conflicts of interest much more closely, Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly said Wednesday after an investigation into the matter. Stricter rules are also needed.
In March, Blackrock was commissioned by the Commission to conduct a study on criteria for green and social investment following a call for tenders. The American fund company – of which CDU politician Friedrich Merz was on the German board of trustees until early 2020 – manages and invests trillions in assets itself. MEPs criticized the goat turned into a gardener. Then O’Reilly started an investigation.
The committee had already rejected the criticism in June, stating that all award rules had been strictly adhered to. Blackrock’s offer was the best in terms of content and at the same time financially beneficial. The order value was stated as 280,000 euros.
The Ombudsman did not agree with the Commission. O’Reilly criticized a company offering expertise that would later lead to the regulation of the company’s business interests. That “should have been examined much more critically by the Commission”.
The government must make its internal guidelines clearer and also consider whether the budget rules need to be improved. “The risk of conflicts of interest in awarding contracts related to EU policy needs to be addressed much more vigorously, both in EU law and with the officials making the decisions,” she demanded. You couldn’t just tick any list.
She also pointed out that Blackrock may have optimized her chances of getting the job through an “exceptionally low financial offer.” That, in turn, can be “seen as an attempt to gain influence in an area of investment that is important to its customers.” The motivation here should have been questioned, O’Reilly said.
In view of the planned multi-billion dollar investment against the corona and climate crisis, she added: “Citizens must be sure that contracts related to EU funds are only awarded after a strict review process,” said the ombudsman. “The current rules do not do justice to this guarantee.”
In a letter to Commissioner Ursula von der Leyen, MEP Damien Careme called on MEP Damien Careme to immediately revoke the Blackrock order and implement the proposed tightening of the rules.