Daniel Freund

24. November 2020 Transparency

Scientists recommend an independent EU ethics body to prevent conflicts of interest and revolving doors

Dear everyone interested,

An independent EU ethics body is needed to combat conflicts of interest and uncontrolled changes of members and staff of the EU institutions to the lobby (revolving doors): This recommendation was presented Thursday (20.11.2020) to the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committees by academics commissioned by the European Parliament. A large majority of political group representatives agreed on the need for better enforcement of the rules against conflicts of interest.

As rapporteur for the European Parliament, I criticised the fact that 24 violations of the code of conduct of MEPs remained without any sanctions. After scandalous moves from ex-Commission President Manuel Barroso to investment bank Goldman Sachs and ex-Digital Commissioner Neelie Kroes to Uber, the Commission extended the cooling-off periods. However, the conflict of interest in enforcing the rule that current Commissioners judge ex-Commissioners remains. The invited experts therefore call for this self-regulation by MEPs and Commissioners to be replaced by an independent, external control. Socialist rapporteur Pisapia proposed a composition of the EU ethics authority with one third judges and top lawyers, one third civil society experts and one third members of the institutions, i.e. Parliament and Commission. Representatives of the liberal Renew group also supported a de-politicised ethics check. The Christian Democratic representatives had many legal questions.

We look forward to concrete proposals and will prepare a first draft for the Ethics body in the coming weeks. The creation of an independent Ethics body was a key demand of Transparency International in the last European elections. The top candidates of all European party families signed up for the independent ethics body. After the election I asked Ursula von der Leyen about it, and she also promised to do so at her hearing before the Green Group. As elected President, she has written the new body in her working instructions to Vice-President Jourova. Vice-President Jourova has promised to wait for Parliament’s position before presenting a formal Commission proposal.

As the first committee, the Economic and Financial Committee, which was consulted, on the same day, adopted a strong recommendation for an independent ethics body.

BACKGROUND 1: scientific studies

Our overview table of important core recommendations: https://danielfreund.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/EU-ethics-body_EPRS-studies.pdf

Expert opinion by Prof Dr Frischhut: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2020/661110/IPOL_STU(2020)661110_EN.pdf 

Expert opinion by Prof Dr Demmke: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/STUD/2020/651697/IPOL_STU(2020)651697_EN.pdf 


BACKGROUND 2: The group representatives

leading Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO)

Rapporteur: Daniel Freund (Greens/EFA)

Shadow Christian Democrats: Rainer Wieland (CDU, German)

Shadow Social Democrats: Giuliano Pisapia (PD, Italian)

Shadow Liberal/Renew: Gilles Boyer (LREM, French)

Shadow Left: Leila Chaibi (French)


opinion giving Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI)

Rapporteur: Stéphane Séjourné (LREM, French)

Shadow Christian Democrats: Geoffroy Didier (French)

Shadow Social Democrats: Lara Wolters (Dutch)

Shadow Greens: Marie Toussaint (French)

Shadow Left: Manon Aubry (French)