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European Commission announces plans for new ethics body aimed at fighting corruption

On 8 June 2023, Vera Jourová, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Values and Transparency, gives a press conference on the EU Ethics Body.
On 8 June 2023, Vera Jourová, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Values and Transparency, gives a press conference on the EU Ethics Body. Copyright Jennifer Jacquemart/CCE
Copyright Jennifer Jacquemart/CCE
By Efi Koutsokosta
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The EU institutions have been hit by a number of scandals in recent months, including alleged high-level corruption in the European Parliament.

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The European Commission on Thursday proposed the creation of a new ethics body to set standards of conduct across EU institutions after their image was tarnished by a cash-for-influence scandal.

According to the latest polls, 60% of Europeans are unhappy about how the EU is dealing with corruption.

In an interview with Euronews, Věra Jourová, the European Commission Vice-President responsible for rule of law issues, said she understands why people think this way, but that the new proposals are an attempt to change course.

"What the people think about us, I think that they should know the rules regarding trips, gifts, declarations of assets, what the politicians do after their mandate. Well, I think that the people have the right to see clear standards," Jourová said on Thursday.

"The ethics body will fill in the gaps. The roof above all the institutions and all the work on the unified standards will then reflect in the work of each institution."

The new body is expected to set standards for the acceptance of gifts, hospitality or travel offered by third parties, as well as for meeting with lobbyists and over the financial interests to declare.

It will apply to at least nine institutions including the Commission, Parliament and Council as well as the European Central Bank, the European Court of Auditors, the Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions, the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Investment Bank. Other bodies can request to be included.

It will be composed of a chair, who will rotate annually amongst the participating institutions, one member for each participating institution and five independent experts chosen by participating institutions.

Shari Hinds, a policy officer at Transparency International, however said the body does not meet the expectations of civil society, given that it will not have any investigative powers.

"For the time being it seems that the Ethics Body will not be with actual power. So, it would be toothless," she told Euronews.

"Unfortunately we consider that there should be sanctioning and investigative powers which is not the case for the moment. So, it seems more [of a] paper tiger, I would say."

The new body with representatives from the institutions and five independent experts will seek to agree on common standards before the European Elections in June 2024.

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