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Summary of Decision of the European Ombudsman setting out suggestions following her strategic inquiry OI/6/2016/AB on the European Commission’s Special Advisers

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  • Case: OI/6/2016/AB
    Opened on 26 May 2016 - Decision on 16 Jun 2017
  • Institution(s) concerned: European Commission

This strategic inquiry looks into the European Commission’s rules and practices for ensuring that its Special Advisers do not have conflicts of interest.

The Commission appoints Special Advisers to give policy advice to Commissioners on a part-time basis. As many Special Advisers will continue to work outside the Commission during their term as Special Advisers, robust rules and practices are necessary to ensure that no conflicts of interest arise between these outside activities and their work as Special Advisers. This is all the more important given the high-level access and influence enjoyed by Special Advisers.

The Ombudsman commends the Commission on the procedural improvements the Commission has itself made to deal with certain issues. She is also pleased that the Commission has replied positively to a number of suggestions made by the Ombudsman during her inquiry. In closing this inquiry, the Ombudsman concludes that the Commission could further strengthen its practices in a number of respects. These include: adopting a more proactive approach to its assessment of conflicts of interest; using more effective ‘mitigating measures’ to address risks that arise; and enhancing citizens’ access to information on Special Advisers.

The Ombudsman closes her inquiry by making 10 suggestions to the Commission.