Too many ethics problems of commissioner-candidates: EU needs an independent ethics body

Posted on Sep 18, 2019 in Allgemein
Foto: Europäisches Parlament

Last week Ursula von der Leyen presented the 26 candidates for her commission. Research shows: several commissioner candidates have ethics problems or conflicts of interest or are being investigated for fraud or embezzlement.

MEP Daniel Freund, Coordinator of the Greens/EFA Group in the Constitutional Affairs Committee, responsible for ethics rules, and former campaign leader of Transparency International EU comments:

“Too many of the Commissioner candidates have conflicts of interest or ethical issues. Too many of the candidates do not meet the requirements for a clean Commission. Self-regulation by the EU institutions has too often failed, which is why we need an independent ethics authority that can enforce ethics rules and prevent conflicts of interest.

“Ursula von der Leyen has included an independent EU ethics authority for Commissioners and MEPs in her work program owing to Green pressure. We must put an end to time of ethics issues being swept under the rug. The damage to trust in the EU caused by conflicts of interest and corruption is too great. Allegations of corruption in Brussels only gives ammunition to the opponents of Europe and the far-right.”

Background

As reported by SPIEGEL, the law firm of the Hungarian candidate for enlargement commissioner, Laslo Trocsanyi, has won several large government contracts when he was already Minister of Justice. His law firm represents the Hungarian state before the European Court of Justice in the case of the Hungarian nuclear power plant Paks-II. Trocsanyi himself was involved in the proceedings in the role of Minister of Justice.

The Romanian anti-corruption authority investigated the Romanian candidate for transport commissioner, Rovana Plumb, because she is said to have transferred two Danube islands from state hands to the constituency of Liviu Dragnea, then head of the Romainian Social Democratic Party. The case was dropped because the Romanian Parliament refused to waive Plumb’s immunity. The German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that Plumb did not declare a 800.000 Euro credit loan in her declaration of financial interest towards the European Union.  Plumb also attracted negative attention because she is said to have registered an SUV in neighbouring Bulgaria in order to evade 3,000 euros in environmental taxes. Taxes she had herself introduced as Environment Minister.

According to the Belgian daily De Tijd, the Belgian candidate for the department of justice, Didier Reynders, is being investigated on suspicion of corruption and money laundering. Reynders has been Belgian Foreign Minister since 2011. The accusations relate to the construction of an embassy building in the Congolese capital Kinshasa.

According to research by SPIEGEL, the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) is investigating the Polish candidate for the agricultural portfolio, Janusz Wojciechowski. The PiS politician is said not to have correctly accounted for travel expenses during his time as a Member of the European Parliament. The sums involved are in the five-digit range.

The anti-fraud agency OLAF in Brussels is also investigating the French candidate for the Single Market portfolio, Sylvie Goulard. The former Member of the European Parliament is accused of misspending of staff allowances. As this became public, she resigned her position as French Defence Minister in 2017.

Josep Borrell, the European Commissioner-designate for External Relations from Spain, has, in the past, attracted negative attention for undeclared additional income. During his time as president of the European University Institute, Borrell did not disclose income from a board membership of 300,000 euros. Due to the affair, Borrell resigned from his position in 2012.