12 / 18 / 2019

European Union

By 461 votes “in favour”, 157 votes “against” and 89 “abstentions”, the von der Leyen Commission received the endorsement of the European Parliament on Wednesday 27 November. The Greens group had not wished to lend it their support, pointing to too many contradictions within the Commission. The Greens maintain in particular that the presence of Thierry Breton, who was CEO of the Atos IT group for 11 years, at the head of a large digital sector in itself represents a conflict of interests. (Le Point, 27 November 2019) (France 24, 27 November 2019)

However, at his hearing in the European Parliament on 14 November, Thierry Breton stated that he no longer holds any interests in the companies he directed. According to Autorité des marchés financiers (French Financial Markets Authority) documents, he has sold his shares for the sum of €46 million and has resigned from his directorships. (Le Monde, 15 November 2019)

The question of ethics at a European level was addressed on 28 November by 24 NGOs who sent a list of requests to Charles Michel, the future President of the European Council. Their proposals include the strengthening of the President of the Council’s Code of Conduct, a commitment to meet only with lobbyists who have signed the European Union’s Transparency Register, as well as an encouragement to publish a list of such meetings. The signatories also call on Charles Michel to take a position on the proposed creation of a common “independent ethics body” for all European institutions. (Contexte, 28 November 2019) (Alter-EU, 28 November 2019)

The name of the new European Ombudsman will be announced after the MEPs have cast their votes during the week of 16 December. Two out of the four candidates nominated seem to have a real chance of success. One of them is Emily O’Reilly, the current European Ombudsman who draws attention to her experience in the position and the various investigations she has launched in recent years. The other is Julia Laffranque, an Estonian judge at the European Court of Human Rights, who has the backing of 90 MEPs in her bid for the post, as against Emily O’Reilly’s 84. The four contenders will be interviewed by MEPs from the Petitions Committee on 3 December, when they will set out their respective ambitions. (Contexte, 25 November 2019) (The Parliament Magazine, 21 November 2019)

Council of Europe

On 13 November, Transparency International asked the members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to recommend the establishment of an independent investigative body mandated to examine recent allegations of corruption from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). This collective of investigative journalists has recently published a report that mentions payments made on behalf of a Ukrainian politician, Serhiy Lovochkin, into accounts held by senior European officials. Transparency International is also calling for an investigation into the case of the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, suspected of having received money from Lovochkin whilst he was President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. (OCCRP, 15 November 2019)