Question of the day: where, within one’s network of human contacts, is there place for a Gazprom lobbyist?
Contrary to what some people may think, in the title I am asking an open question, having just read this article from RFE/RL. It concerns primarily decision-makers, of course, and not the ordinary person.
The article points out that EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (“EU foreign policy chief”) Federica Mogherini has a spokeswoman, Catherine Ray, who has a husband, Thomas Barros-Tastets, who in turn happens to be working for a company called G+ which has Gazprom among its major clients (G+ deals with Gazprom in the value of 300,000 to 350,000 Euros per annum).
Does this help Gazprom? Is it significant related to this that Federica Mogherini, before she took office, was thought by some to be too understanding towards Russia?
One obvious question that has to be asked is if Thomas Barros-Tastets’ work was kept a secret throughout the vetting process which saw wife Catherine get the job of spokesperson. And the answer is apparently it wasn’t. Mogherini as well as others knew.
Of course, for her part, Mogherini then takes even more responsibility for this, in case there’s anything wrong with this. Which is not easy to tell.
Some in the Commission have what seems to them an easy answer. Margaritis Schinas, the chief spokesman for the European Commission says:
“(Catherine) Ray is charged with speaking on Africa, Latin America, and Gulf countries. Fellow foreign affairs spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic speaks for Mogherini on European affairs, including Russia. We therefore do not believe there is a potential conflict of interest with…Ray’s duties at the commission.”
While we cannot determine the answer to the above questions really (especially to the question of whether Catherine Ray’s position helps Gazprom), we can safely tell that Margaritis Schinas is using a flawed argument above. Gazprom, which used to be the Soviet Ministry of Gas back in the day, does not have interests only related to Russia but as a profit-making venture and as a State-Owned Enterprise (majority-owned by the Russian state) it has complex economic and political interests related to almost every continent, the Gulf countries being the most obvious example of this. So in the end this is still kinda interesting.