- Parliament proposes an agreement between EU institutions to improve transparency and integrity
- A new EU body is needed, with investigative powers complementary to other EU institutions’ and bodies’
- Proactive guidance and recommendations on ethical matters, investigation of Commissioners’ conflicts of interest
The new Ethics Body should be able to initiate investigations on possible conflicts of interest or “revolving door” cases for Commissioners, MEPs and staff.
In a report adopted on Thursday with 377 votes in favour, 87 against, and 224 abstentions, MEPs put forward their proposals for the creation of an Independent Ethics Body (IEB) that would “ensure the consistent and full implementation of ethics standards across the EU institutions”.
The IEB would aim to guarantee that public decisions are taken “with a view to the common good and citizens’ trust in the EU institutions”. MEPs call for an interinstitutional agreement (IIA) to set it up between the Parliament and the Commission, which would be open to all EU institutions, agencies and bodies.
Investigatory and advisory powers
The IEB should have an array of responsibilities, including being able to:
- start investigations on possible conflicts of interest or “revolving door” cases involving Commissioners, MEPs and staff of the participating institutions, based on information from third parties such as journalists, NGOs, whistle-blowers or the European Ombudsman - allowing anonymity if appropriate;
- propose and advise on ethics rules before, during and in some cases after a term of office or employment;
- help the EP Committee on Legal Affairs in their assessment of possible conflicts of interest of Commissioners-designate prior to hearings;
- complement Parliament’s right of inquiry;
- collaborate with national authorities and other competent EU bodies and agencies, such as OLAF and the EPPO; and
- raise awareness and provide guidance, as well as have a compliance and advisory role with the ability to issue recommendations.
The Body should comprise nine members, three each for the Commission and Parliament, and three from among former judges of the CJEU, former members of the Court of Auditors, and former EU Ombudsmen. Former MEPs and Commissioners should not make up more than a third of the membership, which would be renewed by a third every two years.
Rapporteur Daniel Freund (Greens/EFA, DE) commented: "The current set up of self-regulation has failed to stop the numerous recent cases of conflicts of interest and revolving doors. It is clear that we urgently need an independent body to oversee ethics issues inside the EU institutions to ensure accountability for EU officials. Officials working in the European institutions must be held to the highest standards. This is our chance to win back the citizens’ trust."
The Commission will have to adopt its position on the establishment of the IEB, in order for interinstitutional negotiations to start. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged to set up the IEB before her election and entrusted Vice-President Věra Jourová with the task.