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24th Jul 2021

EU watchdog sets out ethics code for eurocrats

The EU's 55,000 officials should be bound by a new set of "ethical principles", according to the head of the EU institutions watchdog.

In a statement released Tuesday (19 June), European Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros, said that the new rules would "help build greater trust between citizens and the EU institutions."

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  • Ethics for eurocrats? (Photo: The European Ombudsman homepage)

The principles were first drafted in 2010 by national ombudsmen across the EU and have been finalised following a public consultation which ended last year. Diamandouros said he would apply the guidelines when conducting inquiries arising from complaints about the EU.

Although admitting that rules are "not new" since they draw on existing measures, the ombudsman encouraged MEPs, Commissioners, and EU judges to stick to the guidelines.

Alongside requirements for staff to balance a commitment to the work of the EU institutions, with professional integrity and objectivity, the rules focus on measures to avoid conflicts of interests. The guidelines stress that EU civil servants should not receive gifts or payment and should "promptly declare any private interests relating to their functions", adding that officials should keep proper records and welcome public scrutiny of their conduct" and should "take steps to avoid conflicts of interest and the appearance of such conflicts."

Last year MEPs called for a set of public service principles in a bid to increase public trust in the EU civil service, insisting in their report on the work of the Ombudsman, that this could "counter their negative image of the EU administration."

Public confidence in the EU administration is low according to a Eurobarometer poll published in 2011. The EU institutions scored particularly poorly on transparency, with 42 percent dissatisfied with their record on openness.

Meanwhile, Diamandouros presented his 2011 annual report to MEPs on the Petitions Committee on Tuesday.

The Ombudsman, who is charged with investigating individual complaints alleging maladministration by the EU institutions, received over 2,500 complaints in 2011, a slight reduction from 2,667 received in 2010. He initiated 382 separate inquiries, of which 47 found that there had been maladministration. As in previous years, the European Commission was the institution most targeted by complaints, with 231 inquiries, lasting an average of ten months, being launched against it.

Under the EU treaties, the Ombudsman has the right to initiate inquiries into the work EU institutions following complaints. However, although the revised Ombudsman's statute allows him to summon officials to give evidence and issue recommendations, its decisions are not legally binding on the EU institutions.

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