Changes to code of conduct for EU Commissioners: do they eliminate conflict of interest?
Wednesday, 23 November 2016
In an attempt to “tighten up” the current code of conduct for Commissioners, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker today (23 November) sent a letter to European Parliament President Martin Schulz, proposing two changes to the current code.
The current code obligates Commissioners participating actively in electoral campaigns in their home countries to take unpaid electoral leave and be replaced during their participation in their functions by another Commissioner. Referring to current practices in the Member States – which allows members of their governments to run for European or national elections while continuing to fulfil their executive tasks – Juncker proposes the corresponding arrangement in the Commission.
The other change has apparently been prompted by former Commission President Barroso’s decision to join the investment bank Goldman Sachs and concerns the so-called cooling-off period for Commissioners after leaving their posts. Juncker wants the period extended from currently 18 months to two years for former Commissioners and to three years for the President of the Commission. During the cooling-off period, they must inform the Commission of their intention to take up a new post.
The European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, welcomes Juncker’s proposal to extend the cooling-off period but repeats that some positions will not cease to be problematic simply because two or three years have passed. “While the passage of time might diminish the likelihood that taking up a job will infringe the duty to act with discretion and integrity, it does not eliminate it.”