Overall, the European Parliament, Council and Commission have put in place adequate ethical frameworks, according to a new report from the European Court of Auditors. But the auditors also identified certain areas where the coverage, specificity, clarity and level of guidance could be improved and harmonised, as well as examples of best practice. In addition, staff awareness and perception of the ethical framework and culture should be strengthened, say the auditors.
Ethical frameworks are intended to help ensure that unethical behaviours are prevented, identified and dealt with correctly. In the EU institutions, provisions on ethics apply to both staff and elected or appointed members, such as Members of the European Parliament or Commissioners. They concern policies on gifts and entertainment, outside activities or assignments, conflicts of interests, activities after the end of employment or a mandate at an EU institution, harassment and whistleblowing.
The auditors assessed whether the ethical frameworks of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission were well established. In particular, they examined their legal ethical requirements and the procedures for enforcing them. They also carried out a survey to assess awareness among staff. At this stage, however, they did not look at how the ethical frameworks had been implemented.
“Any unethical behaviour, or even the perception thereof, by Members or staff of the EU institutions attracts high levels of public interest and reduces trust in the EU”, said Mihails Kozlovs, the Member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report. “Our audit will help EU institutions to further improve their ethical frameworks and reduce to a minimum the risk of unethical behaviour.”