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Ombudsman asks for more information on ethics rules related to European Defence Fund

The Ombudsman has asked the Commission for information on how it ensures that experts evaluating proposed projects under the European Defence Fund (EDF) do not have conflicts of interest.

These experts evaluate and review projects meant to develop defence technology and equipment and their input helps the Commission to decide which projects should receive money from the fund. 

The Fund came into being in January 2021 and will have budget of around EUR8 billion until 2027, the end of the current budgetary period.

Contrary to the general practice for the evaluation of proposals meant to receive EU funds, the Commission is not required to publish the list of experts it intends to consult. The outcome of the ethics screenings of Defence Fund project proposals will also not be made public.

Noting that an important element of public scrutiny is missing, the Ombudsman is asking the Commission to explain what measures it has in place to ensure that the use of external experts does not lead to risks conflicts of interest. 

The Ombudsman also asked which code of conduct will be applied to the experts, who come from the public and private sector, as well as from academia and research institutes.

The Commission has been asked to reply to the Ombudsman by 31 March 2023.