The EU administration has many rules in place to prevent conflicts of interest or other ethical breaches. The Ombudsman’s role is to help make sure these rules are implemented, as well as to help institutions avoid any perception that ethical breaches could occur.
A particular area of focus for the Ombudsman is the question of ‘revolving doors’, whereby public officials leave the EU administration to take up positions in the private sector (or vice-versa). Public officials moving to the private sector may seek to make use of networks they had access to in their former roles or attempt to influence EU legislation or regulation. This can undermine public trust in the EU administration.
While it is a normal for interest groups to seek to exert influence over the EU’s democratic decision-making process, it is essential that this takes place according to the highest transparency standards, to mitigate concerns about potential conflicts of interest. Lobbying transparency and how interest groups engage with the EU institutions are recurring themes of Ombudsman inquiries.
The Ombudsman may look into ethical issues where they are raised by complainants who are dissatisfied with how the institution in question dealt with their concerns. However, she may also act on her own initiative to look into issues where she becomes aware of potential public concerns and finds grounds to do so.