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Replacement of the Chairman of the Commission's Ad hoc Ethical Committee

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  • Case: 297/2013/FOR
    Opened on 12 Mar 2013 - Decision on 19 Dec 2013
  • Institution(s) concerned: European Commission
  • Field(s) of law: People's Europe
  • Types of maladministration alleged – (i) breach of, or (ii) breach of duties relating to: Duty of care
  • Subject matter(s): Institutional and policy matters
chess pawn and knight on white background
Author: Aleksandr Bondarchuk
Copyright: Stocklib © Aleksandr Bondarchuk

Summary of the decision on complaint 297/2013/(RA)FOR against the European Commission

The complaint concerns the reappointment of the Chairman of the Commission's Ad hoc Ethical Committee. This Committee comprises three individuals not currently employed by the Commission. Its role is to advise the Commission on ethical issues arising in the implementation of the Commission's Code of Conduct for Commissioners. In particular, the Committee advises on ethical issues when a former Commissioner wishes to take up employment.

The Ombudsman noted that the Chairman was in a conflict of interests given that he also worked as a lawyer representing the interests of private sector clients before the Commission. She found that the Commission's reappointment of the Chairman created a situation where the Chairman would, in effect, be adjudicating on the future employment prospects of Commissioners who, on the basis of their current positions, had huge influence on matters of great consequence for the private clients of the Chairman.

Accordingly, the Ombudsman found that the private interests of the Chairman were such that they could impact negatively on the manner in which he exercised his role as Chairman of the Committee.

It was unnecessary for the Ombudsman to make any recommendation to the Commission as the Commission replaced the Chairman prior to the completion of the Ombudsman's inquiry.