The European Commission presents its project to define the ethical rules in the Community institutions

European Commission Vice-President for Values ​​and Transparency Vera Jourova at EU headquarters in Brussels on June 5, 2023.

When she took over the presidency of the European Commission in 2019, Ursula von der Leyen had promised to work on the establishment of an ethics body, which would oversee all the Community institutions. Thursday, June 8, almost four years later, the community executive finally presented its proposal.

Without “Qatargate”, a scandal of alleged corruption of parliamentarians and European officials by Qatar, Morocco and Mauritania brought to light in December 2022, the former defense minister of Angela Merkel would undoubtedly have given up, as the project aroused opposition in the European Parliament, more particularly within the group of conservatives of the EPP and in the CDU-CSU, from which it itself came. In the name of the freedom of the mandate of deputy, Germany has, in fact, always been reluctant to the idea of ​​a strict regulation of the function, at home as in Strasbourg.

“The European Parliament could have, in the wake of “Qatargate”, adopted new rules on its own. But, he didn’t and it seems unlikely that he will. From then on, it had to come from elsewhere”, we explain in the entourage of Vera Jourova, the Commissioner for Transparency, in charge of the file. Roberta Metsola, the President of the European Parliament, also from the EPP, has certainly presented a series of reforms in order to close the loopholes that the corruption scandal has revealed. But since then it has come up against strong resistance from MEPs.

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Harmonize regulations

For the time being, the Maltese has had to revise its ambitions downwards: while it proposed, in particular, to set at two years the period during which an elected official should refrain from lobbying at the end of of his mandate, this period was reduced to six months, which calls into question the effectiveness of such a measure. For the rest, says an official of the Legislative Assembly, “the bodies responsible for advancing the file are relentless in dragging out the discussions, hoping that nothing will happen before the European elections scheduled for June 2024”. They hope that the renewal of Parliament, after the election, will remove the subject from the agendas.

In this context, the Commission has decided to take over, hoping, as Vera Jourova says, that the new ethics body will be in place “before the 2024 elections”. Its mission will be to define minimum standards in terms of ethics, which nine European institutions (the Parliament, the Council, the Council of the European Union, the Commission, the Court of Justice, the Central Bank, the Court of Auditors and the European Investment Bank) will then have to implement. Today, they each have their own regulations – in all respects, that of the European Parliament is the least restrictive – and will in no case be able to take advantage of these new standards to lighten theirs.

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