Brussels, October 29 - Friends of the Earth Europe scored a victory over European lobbying when the European Commission admitted that it should not have allowed two senior officials working in the cabinet of former Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson to accept VIP tickets from sportswear giant Nike to watch a rugby match in Paris.
The Commission has agreed to change its rules so that officials will not be allowed to accept such gifts in future. The change in the rules comes after a complaint by Friends of the Earth Europe.
As well as the tickets to the opening game of the rugby world cup, which took place in September 2007, Nike provided the officials with a car to travel between Brussels and Paris. As the two officials had been working on anti-dumping cases involving sports shoes made in China and Vietnam, accepting these gifts could create a conflict of interest.
The ombudsman ruled that there was indeed a potential for conflicts of interest if the officials were to work on any anti-dumping cases in the future.
Paul de Clerck, Corporates Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "We are very happy with this outcome. When we approached the Commission on this, they said that it was standard to accept such invitations from companies like Nike. Now the Commission acknowledges that they can no longer do that, as it can create a conflict of interest."
The Commission's official response to the ombudsman stated: "In such circumstances and in this specific case the Commission accepts that it would have been better for the Commission not to have allowed the officials in question to accept the hospitality."