Adopting a code of conduct is not sufficient. Much time and energy is usually spent in designing, formulating and adopting a code but many institutions stop there. The code remains a ‘paper’ tiger and is never implemented or monitored. The future challenge should be to utilize the dynamics which have emerged from the formulation of the code. This will support a continuous process of reflection on the central values and standards contained in the code. Different EU institutions should have their specific rules and standards that fit their institutional needs and particularities. Nevertheless, there may be room for a general and short aspirational code for all EU institutions. Such an aspirational code for the EU institutions may give signal to the public that the EU institutions take ethical issues very seriously and may have a positive public relations effect. All institutions should have rules and standards regarding transparency, confidentiality, and secrecy. Similarly, all should have rules and standards (albeit different ones) on gifts, memberships, honorary activities etc. Because of the different roles, powers, functions and obligations of the EU institutions and the fact that the EU institutions are too diverse, it is advisable that each EU institution adopts its own specific codes that regulates the particular conflicts of interest that holders of public office might face. This implies that the European Parliament should devise its own specific code. All institutions should have rules and standards regarding transparency, confidentiality and secrecy. Similarly, all should have rules and standards (albeit different ones) on gifts, memberships, honorary activities etc. The European Commission should develop rules and standards in the field of post-employment, insider dealing, incompatibility of posts, professional activities and outside (professional) activities. This issue is less salient for Members of the European Parliament. Finally, all institutions should have rules and standards on financial (public) disclosure and ethics committees. Each institution should be free to regulate additional issues on the misuse of positions for private gains or the misuse of government property, nepotism etc. The design of gift policies in particular should be left to the individual institutions. Generally, receiving gifts is more problematic for legislators and members of Government than for other holders of public office. The presentation of gifts to political representatives is generally perceived as an expression of friendship, respect and politeness. However, gifts may also represent compensation for political favours. In order to protect members of Government and legislators and the integrity of their positions, these institutions should design specific policies on gifts. Generally, holders of public office should not accept or solicit any gifts, hospitality, or other benefits that may have a real or apparent influence on their objectivity in carrying out their official duties or that may place them under obligation to those who offer the gifts. Gifts, hospitality, and other benefits may only be accepted if they are not received on a regular basis, are of minimal values and are within the standards of courtesy, or protocol. Probably more important than having detailed conflict of interest regimes is to have credible monitoring and control mechanism in place, the crucial issues being transparency and accessibility of information, monitoring and enforcement.  The public increasingly tends to question practices, where public institutions regulate their own ethical conduct. Forms of self-regulation tend to cause suspicion. The EU institutions should have their own ethics committees that have the authority to advise both about general issues and about specific cases. In some instances, it may be advisable to give these ethics committees the authority to decide upon specific conflicts of interest that have been brought before it (instead of the present peer system). Another possibility would be to establish an independent Standards in Public Office Commission which would have advisory tasks and/or supervisory and monitoring tasks. This office may be set up under the authority of the European Ombudsman. As regards the Commission, it seems questionable (especially in the light of the Lisbon Treaty), whether it would be legally possible to establish an Ethics Committee with sanctioning powers and the authority to decide upon specific conflicts of interest, concerning the EU Commissioners. Despite these legal restrictions, it is a fact that the existing Ad hoc Committee has too limited a role. It is responsible for post-employment issues. An ethics committee with a broader mandate should be established (advising holders of public office, restricting monitoring role, public role). Registers of interest that are open to the public are a popular and widely used instruments in the Member States. However, there are doubts as to the effectiveness of registers and also to potential political abuse of public registers. On the other hand, holders of public office have access to a great deal of power and influence. In addition, people place a tremendous amount of trust in holders of public office. Therefore, they should be subject of public scrutiny (and not only being exposed to the voters’ verdict. At present, not all institutions have credible monitoring and enforcement mechanisms as to their registers of interest. In most cases, the declarations of interest are sent to the president of the institutions. However, it is questionable whether the office of the President has the necessary means and resources to ‘manage’ the monitoring of registers. Thus, this form of self-regulation may lack credibility and deterrent effects. Independent monitoring officers should be established whose task would be to report annually (and publicly) on the received data. The content and the question of what should be declared in a register of interests should be left to the individual institutions. For example, this concerns questions such as whether the spouse’s activities should also be listed and whether reporting thresholds should be introduced. Although more rules and standards exist, holders of public office are not made sufficiently aware of the existing rules and trained on how to implement them. Consequently, there should be an increased effort in the training of holders of public office and also in other awareness-raising techniques that aim at enhancing knowledge of the rules. In the end, it would be advisable to require the EU institutions to install a regime of ethical rules without burdening them with a series of elaborate forms and procedures. This would go quite a bit beyond the present state of affairs. This would imply that some institutions, mostly the European Parliament would have to step up its efforts to regulate and enforce ethical rules and standards.  

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