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European Commission - Press release

President Juncker proposes to tighten the Code of Conduct for Commissioners

Brussels, 23 November 2016

President Juncker proposes to tighten the Code of Conduct for Commissioners

As announced in his State of the Union Address 2016, President Jean-Claude Juncker has today sent a letter to European Parliament President Martin Schulz, seeking the Parliament's views on two important issues: first, a proposal to update the 2010 Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission in order to allow Commissioners to be candidates to European Parliament elections without having to take a leave of absence. Second, the Commission's intention to tighten the Code of Conduct for Commissioners extending the "cooling-off" period from currently 18 months to two years for former Commissioners and to three years for the President of the Commission.

President Juncker said: "The Commission is a political institution which is directly accountable to the European Parliament and renewed every five years in the light of the outcome of the European Parliament elections. Already, many of our Commissioners have stood as candidates in European Parliament elections, are former Prime Ministers or Ministers. In the future, like it is common practice in all our Member States, I want the Members of the Commission to be able to stand as candidates in European elections without having to step down from their tasks, as it is currently required by the Framework Agreement. European Parliament elections are and should be a necessary rendez-vous with democracy, also for the Commission. At the same time, in the light of recent experience made with Members of the previous Commission, I feel that our Code of Conduct should be tightened in order to set the highest ethical standards possible for cases of conflict of interest. For the future, I want notably to extend the cooling off period for former Presidents to three years. Tighter rules are certainly not sufficient to bring about acceptable ethical behaviour in all cases. But they are an indispensable starting point."

Changes to the Framework Agreement

In his letter to the President of the European Parliament, President Juncker follows up on his announcement in his State of the Union Address of 14 September 2016, as well as on the orientation debate the College of Commissioners held on the matter on 22 November. President Juncker proposes to abolish the rule – currently set out in point 4 of the Framework Agreement on relations between the European Parliament and the European Commission ("Framework Agreement") – which forces Commissioners to step down from their functions when they want to run in elections to the European Parliament. Appropriate safeguards will be put in place to prevent the use of Commission staff or resources for campaign purposes.

This proposal reflects current practices in the Member States which allows members of their governments to run for European or national elections while continuing to fulfil their executive tasks.

Changes to the Code of Conduct of Commissioners

The second proposal made by President Juncker refers to the "cooling-off" period during which former Commissioners need to inform the Commission of their intention to engage in an occupation after leaving office. The President intends to extend that period from currently 18 months to two years for the Members of the Commission and to three years for the President of the Commission. In line with the Framework Agreement, he is now seeking the European Parliament's opinion on this intention.

Background and next steps

The Framework Agreement of 20 November 2010 foresees that Members of the Commission participating actively in electoral campaigns must leave the Commission and be replaced during this participation in their functions by another Member of the Commission[1]. This obligation is implemented in the Code of Conduct for Commissioners of 20 April 2011[2].

Today, the President sent the Commission's proposal to amend the Framework Agreement, in particular point 4, paragraphs 5 to 6 thereof, to the President of the European Parliament. As soon as agreement is reached, the European Commission will be able to up-date the Code of Conduct of Commissioners accordingly.

With regard to the "cooling-off" period, point 8 of the Framework Agreement provides for the Commission to seek European Parliament's opinion when coming forward with a revision of the Code of Conduct relating to conflict of interest or ethical behaviour.

For More Information

-    President Juncker's State of the Union Speech

-    Ethics for Commissioners

 

[1] The full wording of point 4, paragraphs 4, 5 and 6, of the Framework Agreement is as follows: "The participation of Members of the Commission in electoral campaigns is governed by the Code of Conduct for Commissioners. Members of the Commission participating actively in electoral campaigns as candidates in elections to the Parliament should take unpaid electoral leave with effect from the end of the last part-session before the elections. The President of the Commission shall inform Parliament in due time of his/her decision to grant such leave, indicating which Member of the Commission will take over the relevant responsibility for that period of leave".

[2] See point 1.1, paragraphs 7, 8 and 9 of the Code of Conduct for Commissioners.

 

IP/16/3929

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