Daniel Freund

14. March 2024 Transparency

Breakthrough for independent lobby control: EU institutions agree on ethics body

Seven EU institutions have today (Thursday 14 March) agreed on a new body to strengthen the transparency and integrity of the EU institutions. In addition to the European Parliament and the European Commission, almost all other EU institutions are to join this “Ethics Body”. Only the European Council will certainly not participate, and the Council will probably not participate for now. The new body will give the participating institutions an independent control on lobbying and anti-corruption rules for the first time. The proposal was adopted in the European Parliament in 2021. The following Commission proposal contained only setting common minimum standards. In the negotiations that have now been concluded, we as negotiators in the European Parliament were able to ensure that the new body can also deal specifically with individual cases.

Katarina Barley (SPD/S&D), European Parliament Vice-President and lead negotiator for an independent EU Ethics Body, comments:

“The Ethics Body is a big step forward for transparency and openness in Europe. This is all about putting citizens’ interests first and making sure EU institutions stick to the highest ethical standards. I am proud that this breakthrough was made possible by Parliament’s unwavering dedication to serving Europeans. Establishing this new Authority demonstrates our dedication to fairness and reliability across the EU.”

Daniel Freund (Greens), the European Parliament’s lead negotiator for an independent EU ethics body, comments:

“Today we are celebrating a great success for transparency and the integrity of the EU institutions. For far too long, breaches of the relatively good lobbying rules in Brussels have gone unpunished. The absence of independent scrutiny has allowed a culture of impunity to flourish, the extreme excesses of which culminated in the ‘QatarGate’ corruption scandal. We are now, for the first time, creating a body to monitor the integrity of both EU Commissioners and MEPs. Without the tireless efforts of the European Parliament for more transparency, we would not have come this far. The fact that the new body can also deal specifically with individual cases is an enormous negotiating success. Today, we are creating more transparency and thus laying the foundation for greater citizen confidence in European democracy.”

CORE ELEMENTS of the EU ethics body

Representatives of the institutions set common standards: One representative per institution or advisory committee (the body) negotiates and adopts common minimum standards on declarations of interest, secondary employment, gifts, spin-off jobs (revolving doors), lobby meetings and the enforcement of rules in the institutions. The participating institutions must adapt their rules. The body publishes its review of the institutions’ internal rules.

Independent experts review individual cases: The representatives of the institutions appoint five independent experts by consensus. They independently examine individual cases that institutions refer to them for declarations of interest or “other written standardised declarations”, which in Parliament also includes lobby meetings, invitations from third parties and more. The experts send their recommendations to the institution, which then decides on possible sanctions. The experts report annually on how much they have been utilised and what institutions have done with their recommendations.

The contracting parties are (1) the European Parliament, (2) the European Commission, (3) the Court of Justice of the European Union (as an observer without participating in decisions), (4) the European Central Bank, (5) the Court of Auditors, (6) the Economic and Social Committee and (7) the Committee of the Regions. Although the Council (of ministers) would like to be a contracting party, it is not prepared to allow the minimum standards to apply to the ministers as members of the Council or to waive its veto in favour of common standards. Until this problem is resolved, it will not participate. The European Investment Bank can join as a contracting party, EU agencies can also adopt the minimum standards for themselves.

NEXT STEPS: Today, the EP group leaders confirmed the negotiators’ political agreement. Next, the Constitutional Committee (AFCO) will write a report, probably from 20 March. The plenary is expected to vote on the report 22-25 April as one of the last votes of this legislature. Following the EP President’s signature in May, the agreement could then enter into force in June. Once the 8 representatives of the EU institutions have been delegated, they must agree on 5 independent experts. Once they are appointed, the EU ethics body will be operational. We were able to ensure that the experts can also examine initial declarations of interest or other cases against the internal rules of the institutions and do not have to wait for the adoption of common minimum standards.

Today we are celebrating a great success for transparency and the integrity of the EU institutions.


35,000 lobbyists are attempting to influence EU laws. Commissioners switch position into the private sector. MPs work as lobbyists on a part-time basis. From my time at Transparency International I know that the EU is still better than the member states in many respects.  However, there is also a need for far more transparency in the EU.