New European Commission code of conduct still too vague

16 January 2011

New European Commission code of conduct still too vague

The new Code of Conduct for European Commissioners recently sent by the Commission to the European Parliament includes some improvements, but remains far from satisfactory. Commenting on the new text, SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong said: ‘The Parliament is being consulted by the Commission as to our opinion. As far as I’m concerned we should be immediately presenting proposals to sharpen this text up, because the existing Code of Conduct leaves far too much to interpretation. Until it’s sharpened up the Parliament should not release the ex-Commissioners’ pensions.”

Concrete points on which the SP wants to see a sharpening of the Code of Conduct:

  • Lengthening – from 18 months to three years - of the cooling-off period during which ex-Commissioners will not be permitted to take on any lobbying functions relating to their former policy specialism.
  • Clear definitions of ‘conflicts of interest’ and ‘lobbying activities’
  • Guarantees of the independence of the Ad Hoc Ethical Committee which will rule on questions of integrity.

The European Parliament recently exerted pressure to bring about an adjustment of the Code of Conduct, blocking part of the pensions of ex-Commissioners. What provoked this were, amongst other things, the activities of former Commissioner Gunter Verheugen, who, together with his wife, had opened a lobbying firm which intended to give help and advice relating to his past areas of responsibility. Although the previous version of the Code of Conduct also foresaw limiting the activities of ex-Commissioners, it turned out in practice that almost anything was permitted. The new Code of Conduct must put an end to such freedom of interpretation.

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