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Brussels, 11 December 2007

New study examines ethical rules and standards for public officials

Today the Commission released an independent comparative study of the rules and standards of professional ethics for the holders of public office. The study, carried out by the European Institute of Public Administration, concluded that most of the European institutions are regulated more intensively than institutions at national level. The European Commission and the European Investment Bank have the most comprehensive ethical rules of the EU institutions. The study noted that the European Commission has a relatively well developed system for notification of conflicts of interest.

The study released today surveyed the rules and standards of professional ethics at the European institutions and at various national institutions. For instance, the study looked at the rules concerning declarations of financial interests and assets; external activities; loyalty; rules on accepting gifts, decorations or distinctions; rules on impartiality and conflicts of interest; rules on incompatibility of posts and professional activities before or during one's term of office; restrictions on professional commitments or holding other posts after leaving office; and similar ethical issues.

This was an initial opportunity to share best ethical practices among public administrations. The European Commission emerges positively from this analysis in absolute and relative terms. One conclusion is that we must continue to ensure that ethical rules are enforced, periodically reviewed and that a strong and coherent ethical culture is put in place across the Commission.


As one aspect of the European Transparency Initiative, in July 2006 the Commission launched a call for tenders for an individual study, both comparative and by country, of the rules and standards of professional ethics for holders of public office in the European institutions and in national parliaments, national governments, constitutional courts (supreme courts), courts of audit, and central or national banks of the 25 Member States of the European Union plus Romania, Bulgaria, Canada and the United States of America.

Regarding European institutions, the study examined and compared the rules and standards of professional ethics in the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Court of Auditors, the Court of Justice, the European Central Bank and the European Investment Bank. A questionnaire asked respondents to provide information on whether and how they regulate 15 different conflict of interest issues. The research data consisted of 19 survey questions put to five institutions in all Member States and the six European institutions mentioned above. Out of the 141 institutions covered in this study, 88 (62%) responded to all questions.

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