On 10 September 2019, the new President of the European Commission, Mrs Ursula von der Leyen, submitted her nominations for the Commissioners who are to form her working team and who will take up their duties on 1st November 2019. If the European Parliament confirms her appointment, Vera Jourova, from the Czech Republic, is to serve as Commissioner for Values and Transparency. In her mission statement, Mrs von der Leyen particularly urges the new Commissioner to resume negotiations with the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers regarding the reform of the Transparency Register, in order to bring more visibility to the European legislative process. She would like to see European institutions’ obligations in this area go further than current practice. The President has also urged the Commissioner to establish an independent body dedicated to ensuring that all European institutions comply with ethical rules.
From 30 September, candidates for the post of European Commissioner will be interviewed in Brussels. Over a 10-day period, MEPs will attempt to identify possible conflicts of interest and will examine the future Commissioners’ income tax returns and asset declarations. (Le Monde, 23 September 2019)
However, the Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI), mandated to scrutinise the candidates’ declarations of financial interest before they are interviewed, has already found the Romanian candidate, Rovana Plumb, nominated for the post of Commissioner for Transport, and the Hungarian candidate, Laszlo Trocsanyi nominated for the post of Commissioner for Enlargement, to be in situations of overall conflict of interest, making them unfit to be members of the College of European Commissioners, regardless of their portfolios. This sunset decision prior to their interviews is without precedent, to the extent that the President of the European Parliament is unsure as to how to proceed. (Contexte, 27 September 2019; The Guardian, 26 September 2019)
Debates around combating conflicts of interest within the European Parliament are in full swing in this month of September. According to the latest figures from Transparency International Europe, one third of the 751 MEPs elected in May are employed in paid activities in addition to their mandates. Some of these activities may constitute situations of conflict of interest, but European legislation has not been designed to combat these forms of abuse, according to the NGO. Although sanctions have been provided for, they are non-existent in practice. (Le Monde, 26 September 2019)
With regard to the outgoing Commissioners, the French online newspaper Médiapart cited the case of the German Commissioner Günther Oettinger, responsible for the European executive budget, who had filed articles of association for his future public relations company in Hamburg’s Trade Register. Jean-Claude Juncker sought advice from the European Commission’s Ethics Committee. (Médiapart, 17 September 2019)
Council of Europe
In an evaluation report published on 4 September 2019, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) called on Denmark to strengthen its anti-corruption policies with respect to members of the government and police officers. The report called for particular attention to be paid to the rules on how individuals in managerial positions should engage with lobbyists, as well as on their employment after leaving the public sector (revolving doors). However, the GRECO commended the strengthening of police procurement procedures during 2018, the content of the new guidelines, « Good practice within the police force and the State Counsel’s Office », and the changes to security clearance procedures, and highlighted the creation of the Independent Police Complaints Authority in 2012.
International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC)
The 19th International Anti-Corruption Conference, organised by Transparency International, is to be held in Seoul, Korea from 2 – 5 June 2020. The theme of the 2030 conference — truth, transparency and confidence — has been announced. The call for session proposals will open on 1st October.