Code of conduct for Commissioners
The Treaty articles on the Commission make special reference to the complete
independence enjoyed by the Members of the Commission, who are required
to discharge their duties in the general interest of the Community. In the
performance of their duties they must neither seek nor take instructions
from any government or from any other body.
In addition, the general interest requires that in their official and private lives Commissioners should behave in a manner that is in keeping with the dignity of their office. Ruling out all risks of a conflict of interests helps to guarantee their independence (section 1).
The general interest also requires that Commissioners establish good working relations, based on loyalty, trust and transparency, with their departments (section 2).
- Independance et dignity: ethical issues
- Loyauté, confiance et transparence : les Commissaires et les services
- Annex 1 - Commissioners' declarations of interests
- Annex 2 - Travel on official business (missions) by Commissioners Budget
- Notification of mission – cancellation of mission
- Means of transport
- Tickets and travel expenses
- Chartering air taxis
- Duration of a mission
- Missions combined with leave
- Daily subsistence allowance
- Hotel expenses
- Other expenses
- Expenses claims
- Certain expenses paid by representative offices and Commission and Commission delegations in other countries
- Special rules concerning Commissioners’ drivers and the use of the car pools of Commission offices and delegations in other countries
Commissioners may not engage in any other professional activity, whether paid or unpaid. (For example, writing a regular column is regarded as a professional activity whereas giving courses free of charge in the interests of European integration on the other hand is permitted).
Commissioners shall notify the President if they are intending to publish a book during their term as Commissioner. Royalties from copyright in a work published in connection with their duties shall be paid over to a charity of their choice.
Commissioners may not accept any form of payment for delivering speeches or taking part in conferences.
Commissioners may hold honorary, unpaid posts in political, cultural, artistic or charitable foundations or similar bodies. They may also hold such posts in educational institutions. “Honorary posts” means posts in which the holder has no decision making power in the management of the body in question.
“Foundations or similar bodies” means non-profit-making organisations or associations which engage in activity in the public interest in the fields mentioned. Posts held on these terms shall under no circumstances involve any risk of a conflict of interest. They shall be listed in a declaration, laid down according to the model in annex to this Code.
The declaration must relate to activities engaged in over the last ten years and must distinguish between activities which ended before the Member of the Commission took up office and those which will continue after that point.
Courses given free of charge in the interests of European integration are the only other outside activities that are permitted, and do not have to be declared.
Commissioners may be active members of political parties or trade unions, provided that this does not compromise their availability for service in the Commission.
Commissioners shall inform the President of their intention to participate in an election campaign and the role they expect to play in that campaign. The President, taking into account the particular circumstances of the case, shall decide on whether the envisaged participation in the election campaign is compatible with the performance of the Commissioner’s duties.
Commissioners standing for election to public office shall also inform
the President of their intended level of participation in the election campaign.
If their intention is to play an active role in the election campaign, they
must withdraw from the work of the Commission for the duration of the campaign.
Commissioners may not hold any public office of whatever kind.
Whenever Commissioners intend to engage in an occupation during the year
after they have ceased to hold office, whether this be at the end of their
term or upon resignation, they shall inform the Commission in good time.
The Commission shall examine the nature of the planned occupation. If it
is related to the content of the portfolio of the Commissioner during his/her
full term of office, the Commission shall seek the opinion of an ad hoc
ethical committee. In the light of the committee's findings it will decide
whether the planned occupation is compatible with the last paragraph of
Article 213(2) of the Treaty.
Financial interests and assets
Commissioners must declare any financial interest or asset which might create a conflict of interests in the performance of their duties. The declaration shall include any holdings by the Commissioner’s spouse which might entail a conflict of interests.
The financial interests which must be declared are any form of individual holding in company capital. This therefore includes shares but also any other form of holding such as convertible bonds or investment certificates.
Units in unit trusts, which do not constitute a direct interest in company capital, do not have to be declared.
Any property owned either directly or through a real estate company must be declared, with the exception of homes reserved for the exclusive use of the owner or his/her family.
Other property whose possession could create a conflict of interests, especially
from a tax point of view, must also be declared.
Activities of spouses
To obviate any potential risk of a conflict of interests, Commissioners are required to declare the professional activities of their spouses.
The declaration must state the nature of the activity or the title of the
position held and, if applicable, the name of the employer.
Declaration of interests
The attached form includes all information that Members of the Commission are required to declare under the Code of Conduct. It must be completed when the Member of the Commission takes office and revised during his or her term of office if the information changes.
Declarations shall be scrutinised under the authority of the President
and with due regard for Members’ areas of responsibility. These declarations
shall be made public.
Resignation of Commissioners
A Member of the Commission shall resign if the President so requests.
Collective responsibility and confidentiality
Out of respect for the principle of collective responsibility, Commissioners shall not make any comment which would call into question a decision taken by the Commission. They shall also refrain from disclosing what is said at meetings of the Commission.
Rules for missions
Missions are defined as travel by a Commissioner on Commission business away from the Commission’s place of work. They are governed according to the rules in annex.
Rules governing receptions and professional representation
The rules governing receptions and professional representation are laid down in the Commission decision of 19 September 1979 (COM(79) 507). Where entertainment expenses are not covered by this decision, they will be met by the Commissioner from the flat rate entertainment allowance provided for in the regulation laying down the emoluments of the Members of the Commission.
Acceptance of gifts, decorations or honours
Commissioners shall not accept any gift with a value of more than EUR 150. When, in accordance with diplomatic usage, they receive gifts worth more than this amount, they shall hand them over to the Commission's Protocol department. In case of doubt as to the value of a gift, an evaluation shall be undertaken under the authority of the Director of the Office for Infrastructure and Logistics in Brussels, whose decision on the matter shall be final.
The Commission’s Protocol department shall keep a public register of gifts with a value of more than EUR 150.
Commissioners shall notify the President of the Commission of any decoration,
prize or honour awarded to them.
The Treaty establishing the European Community and legislation adopted pursuant to that Treaty ("secondary legislation") confer on the Commission several duties, such as:
- acting as guardian of the Treaty and the provisions taken by the institutions
- exercising the powers of initiative regarding acts of the Community
legislator and non-legislative acts of the Council;
- formulating recommendations or opinions on matters covered by the Treaty;
- taking decisions in its own right;
- exercising the powers conferred by the Council or the legislator in
order to apply the rules of secondary legislation;
- implementing the budget and in particular acting as authorising officer, a task it can delegate to officials, as a general rule the Directors-General or Heads of Service, subject to the Staff Regulations and the rules applicable to other servants, the Financial Regulation, the Rules of Procedure and the rules laid down as part of the administrative and financial reform of the Commission.
To this end, the Commission acts collectively on the basis of the political guidelines set by the President. The chain of responsibility runs from the level of the College to the level of the Commissioner, who is answerable to the College for his/her activities and those of his/her departments. The Commissioner lays down, in the light of the guidelines and work programme of the Commission and the principle of collegiality, the policy guidelines and priorities relating to his/her portfolio. He/she shall ensure that it is implemented by his departments, supervising the management of his/her Director-General or Head of Service (hereinafter the Director-General) and giving him/her, where necessary, the guidelines or general instructions to put these policies and priorities into practice.
The chain of responsibility continues down to department level in the person of the Director-General, who is answerable to the Commissioner and the College for the proper implementation of the guidelines set by the College and the Commissioner and, in particular, for the management of the Directorate-General or Service in line with the distribution of powers as defined by the Staff Regulations, the Financial Regulation, the Rules of Procedure and the rules laid down as part of the administrative and financial reform of the Commission.
In order to exercise his/her political responsibility and play his/her supervisory role, the Commissioner must receive the appropriate information from his own departments and the central departments, including information with regard to the quality of internal control put in place in his/her departments. This exercise does not in any way release the Director-General from his/her duty of informing specifically the Commissioner of any fact, situation or matter relating to the management, in particular, financial management, which could have a serious impact on his/her responsibility or that of the College.
The working arrangements made by each Commissioner in agreement with his/her departments and the methods for circulating information between them are transmitted, by way of information to the Head of the President’s cabinet and to the Secretary-General. Either of these may ask for further information and/or clarification.
Relations between Commissioners (their Cabinets) and departments are based
first and foremost on loyalty, trust and transparency.
In addition to these general principles, the activities of Cabinets and departments are assigned with a view to complementing each other along the following lines.
The cabinet is an adjunct to the Commissioner. All information duly communicated to the cabinet in accordance with the working arrangements referred to above is information for the Commissioner.
- The Cabinet shall first and foremost help to ensure that the principle
of collective responsibility operates correctly by keeping the Commissioner
informed about matters outside his or her own area of competence. In this
connection it shall play an active role in the preparation of Commission
meetings and ask questions and express points of view on behalf of the
Commissioner on the items tabled for a decision. It shall also inform
departments about the Commission's proceedings especially when they have
a direct impact on the departments' own activities.
- While avoiding any overlapping with the work of the departments, the
Cabinet shall assist the Commissioner with the content and the policy
priorities of his or her portfolio, and, in particular, ensure that the
Commissioner is kept abreast of the information transmitted by departments
in relation to matters of budgetary and financial management. It shall
take part in the major stages of policy formulation by consulting the
departments on the priorities set. The Cabinet shall ensure that priorities
and programming are complied with. This monitoring function shall be performed
on an across-the-board basis by the member(s) concerned without any direct
reflection of the structure and organisation chart of the Directorate-General
in question. The Cabinet shall inform departments about decisions taken
by the Commissioner. It shall prepare the ground for political agreement
by the College at the final decision-making stage.
- In the interests of efficiency the Chef de cabinet and the Director-General
shall keep each other fully informed about contacts with the outside on
matters falling within the portfolio.
- The members of the Cabinet shall represent the Commissioner at political
level outside the institution, in accordance with the Commissioner's instructions.
Technical matters falling within the Commissioner's policy area should
preferably be handled by departments in order to prevent any duplication
- The Cabinet shall act solely in the interests of the institution in
performing its tasks.
- The Cabinet shall comply strictly with the Commission's rules on security
as contained in the Annex to its Rules of Procedure (see Decision C(2001)3031
of 29/12/2001 – OJ L 317, 3/12/2001).
In accordance with the procedures described at point 2.4 below, departments:
- shall ensure implementation of the priorities adopted and the guidelines
set out at political level. To that end, they shall contribute to or prepare
the instruments provided for in the strategic planning and programming
cycle : at the level of the Commission, the decision on the annual policy
strategy, the preliminary draft budget and the legislative programme and
work programme; at their own level, the annual management plan, which
will serve as a reference framework for drafting the activity report at
the end of the cycle;
- shall help to prepare the policy guidelines the Commissioner has to
set, by proposing strategy options, advising the Commissioner on individual
political decisions and providing all the necessary background information.
The departments shall also provide the Commissioner and his/her cabinet,
in accordance with arrangements laid down, with any information necessary
for their work, such as draft speeches or briefs;
- shall provide the Commissioner with regular and appropriate information
on budgetary and financial matters relating to areas of activity under
his/her responsibility. In addition, they shall report at any time on
any important event in departments, in the Member States or in international
bodies that might have an impact on his/her position in the College or
on the sound management of appropriations or which could hamper the attainment
of the objectives set;
- shall coordinate with the Commissioner and his/her cabinet contacts
with the outside world.
In order to ensure that the Institution operates as efficiently as possible on the basis of a permanent contact between Cabinets and departments, these principles shall be applied in accordance with the following rules.
Organisation of the work
In order to ensure effective collaboration and optimum management of the flow of information between Cabinets and departments, the mission statement and working arrangements must be laid down as soon as the Commissioner takes office.
The Director General shall organise and coordinate the work of departments
in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Commissioner.
The Commissioner shall determine the general policy line for his or her area of responsibility, including the "negative priorities", within the Commission's overall policy framework. In close consultation with the Director-General, this policy line shall then be set out in a mission statement. This mission statement shall be drawn up in the first month of the Commission's term; it shall be adjusted regularly as the situation changes. The original mission statement and its amendments shall be sent to the President and to the Secretary-General for information. They shall be published in the Directorate-General’s intranet website.
The Director-General shall assume full management responsibilities on this
basis. The Director-General may ask the Commissioner for written confirmation.
Working arrangements and information channels
Working arrangements and information channels shall be laid down in the first month of the Commission's term of office by the Director-General and the Chef de cabinet, who will ensure that they are endorsed by the Commissioner.
A copy of these arrangements shall be sent to the President's Chef de cabinet and to the Secretary-General for information. They shall be published in the Directorate-General’s intranet website.
The annual activity report of a department shall include information on the implementation of the working arrangements and of the mission statement.
These rules must comply with the principles of loyalty, accountability, decentralisation, effectiveness, information and non-interference and cover the following areas:
- Organisation of frequent and regular meetings between the Directorate-General
and the Commissioner. At the very least a strategic meeting should be
held every two weeks and a meeting on audits and internal control twice
a year. In view of the fact that the Commissioner and his/her departments
are not installed in the same premises, the Commissioner shall ensure
that close contact is maintained with the staff for whom he/she is responsible.
The precise manner in which this will be achieved shall be laid down in
the working arrangements. At the very least, the Commissioner shall hold
an annual meeting with the staff for whom he/she is responsible.
- Channels for requests from the Commissioner and the departments' replies:
- Contact points must be established for political issues and for routine
management matters, including matters relating to internal control. Decisions
will also have to be taken at the start of the term of office on the arrangements
for setting deadlines and for transmitting replies. In the interests of
simplification and assumption of responsibility, it is suggested that
routine replies, i.e. those involving the Directorate-General's known
and established position, should be sent direct by the Unit Head (or Director)
to the member of the Cabinet handling the matter with a courtesy copy
to the central contact point. Replies involving the determination of a
new position or altering a position previously held and those on matters
considered sensitive shall be sent by the Director-General to the Commissioner
(or, where appropriate, to the Head of cabinet).
- Arrangements will also be made for sharing between the Commissioner's
Office and departments responsibility for:
- handling the Commissioner’s mail;
- producing files or briefs and preparing speeches;
- dealing with requests for files or speeches from other Commissioners;
- representing the Commissioner and making travel arrangements;
- monitoring the decisions taken at the regular meetings described above,
in particular, decisions relating to audits;
- Increased use of electronic mail should be promoted between departments and Cabinets for the transmission of notes and letters submitted to the Commissioner. As a general rule, Cabinets should print out the electronic documents sent by departments and prepare files for submission to the Commissioner.
To safeguard the organisational structure and the information and coordination channels set up, requests sent by a Cabinet to a department for which it is not responsible should in principle go via the Office of the Commissioner responsible. Similarly, departments will, as a rule, refrain from contacting other Cabinets direct; where they do so they will inform their own Cabinet of these contacts.
Specific cases of launching new initiatives and handling sensitive information for which the Commissioner and/or the College could be held responsible
Before launching any new initiative, other than on purely routine management matters, the Director-General shall first secure the agreement of the Commissioner, especially if initiating inter-departmental consultations. On matters of major importance joint meetings of Directors-General and Chefs de cabinet may be held.
As stated in point 2.3 above, departments are required to inform the Commissioner of any sensitive information which could call into question his/her responsibility or that of the College. The information is passed on through a formal referral procedure characterised by the following:
- written information giving rise to a formal and rapid reaction from
the Commissioner in the form he/she considers most appropriate (personal
interview, request for further information ….);
- on the basis of further discussions or information, the drawing up of a documented action plan, the implementation of which is the subject of specific monitoring provisions agreed between departments and the Commissioner.
On taking office, the Commissioner must be informed of serious situations
which had arisen previously and which have not yet been fully resolved.
Information on any new situation of that kind that arises during his/her
term of office must be provided immediately.
Management of financial resources
On taking up office, the Commissioner shall be informed by the departments of the scope, the respective responsibilities, the problems and risks linked to financial management in the Directorate-General or Service. The information shall include a detailed description of the financial circuits in place in the Directorate-General or Service, including internal control arrangements. The Commissioner shall also be informed of the most recent reports of the Court of Auditors, Parliamentary debates relating to the discharge, previous Annual Activity Reports, any comments by the Internal Audit Service (IAS) or the Central Financial Service (CFS), OLAF investigations closed or still ongoing , internal audit reports and progress made in the implementation of measures or action plans adopted on any of these matters. The Commissioner may, where necessary, ask the Commission to have the IAS carry out an immediate audit on an aspect of the financial management of the Directorate-General.
During the term of office, departments shall send to the
Commissioner for approval the main documents relating to the strategic programming
Moreover, the Commissioner shall be regularly and properly informed of:
- any proposal to make changes in the financial circuits and control
systems; in the event of a disagreement those changes are set out in a
proposal to be submitted to the Commission for a decision;
- all audit work (and a related risk assessment) undertaken by the various
control bodies (and, in particular, the internal audit capability (IAC),
the IAS, the European Court of Auditors the Directorate-General or the
Service by way of ex post controls and OLAF). There shall be a meeting
on this information at least every six months between the Commissioner
and the Director-General, who will give an account of these meetings in
the activity report.
Without prejudice to the procedure provided for in point 188.8.131.52 above, departments shall also inform the Commissioner of comments relating to his/her area made by Members of the European Parliament, in particular in written or oral questions, and any allegations of irregularity or fraud brought to the notice of the Director-General.
The aim of this dialogue is to inform the Commissioner before the drafting of the activity report, of any qualifications (comments and/or reservations) which could be added to the declarations. The action plan proposed by the Director-General shall be the subject of a written document and a specific follow up procedure.
With regard to the budget for administrative appropriations, there shall
be strict demarcation between the Directorate-General and the Commissioner's
Office in the management of its appropriations, for items such as mission
expenses, entertainment expenses, etc.
The guiding principle shall be to apply fully the general rules adopted by the Commission as part of its administrative reform.
For non management staff appointments shall be the responsibility of the Director General, acting in conjunction with the Directorate General for Personnel and Administration as regards the official instruments.
For appointments of Heads of Unit and Advisers, the Director-General shall conduct the selection procedure and choose the most suitable candidate in accordance with the specific procedures adopted by the Commission . He/she shall inform the Commissioner of his/her choice prior to formally adopting the decision in accordance with the AIPN rules.
Appointments to functions of Director General, Deputy Director General, Head of service or equivalent (A*/AD 16, A*/AD 15) and to Director or Principal Adviser (A*/AD 15, A*/AD 14) shall be made in accordance with the specific procedures adopted by the Commission . The Commission is AIPN for these decisions.
Vacancy notices for management posts should be published within no more than three months from when the post falls vacant.
Should the Commissioner and the Director-General disagree on the application of these principles and rules or differ in their interpretation, they may refer the matter to the President.
Mission expenses incurred by Commissioners travelling on official business
are covered by an allocation from budget item 25.010213, voted each year
by the Commission on a proposal from the President . The Office for administration
and payment of individual entitlements (PMO) provides monthly statements
of the state of this budget; if consumption exceeds what is available, the
procedure is as follows:
- A first warning is given by the President's Office to the private office
concerned when the monthly average consumption is exceeded.
- A second warning is given by the President's Office to the private
office concerned when it appears likely that the annual allocation will
be exceeded before the end of the year.
- The PMO has instructions to suspend the settlement of all expense claims
and the payment of any advances once the annual limit has been reached.
A travel order, signed by the Commissioner concerned, must be drawn up for all missions using the appropriate form. It must set out the following:
- purpose of the mission,
- the place of mission,
- means of transport to be used,
- date and time of departure and return,
- start and completion of work.
In the event of a mission being cancelled, the Commissioner must immediately:
- see that the travel tickets and reservations issued by the travel agency
are cancelled in writing,
- ensure that hotel reservations are also cancelled in writing.
Commissioners may use any means of transport appropriate for the purposes of the mission based on its cost-effectiveness and taking into account the needs of the Institution.
Travel expenses reimbursed in the context of a mission are in principle for travel between Brussels and the place of the mission.
Tickets are issued on request by the Commission's official travel agency.
The costs are borne in full by the Commissioner's mission allocation. Any
unused, including partly unused, tickets or reservations must be returned
promptly to the travel agency. Copies of tickets and boarding cards must
be attached to expense claims. Any private travel will be personally paid
for by the Commissioner, who will pay the travel agency directly by credit
The use of air taxis will be authorised by the President in accordance with the following rules:
Commissioners who feel they need to use an air taxi should send an application
in advance to the President giving reasons and specifying who will accompany
them, indicating whether those persons (whether working within the institutions
or not) are to bear a share of the charter expenses. That share amounts
to the price of a regular airline ticket for the journey planned in accordance
with the Guide to Missions. Air taxis may be ordered only once the President
has given approval and a copy of this has been sent to the PMO.
The duration of a mission is reckoned from the time of departure to the time of arrival back at the place of employment by the means of transport used.
Missions combined with leave are reckoned as starting at the beginning of the official work if the leave is taken before the mission and as finishing at the close of the official engagement if the leave follows the mission. The same applies in the case of public holidays and weekends, unless the work schedule provides otherwise. Even if this is the case, however, no allowances are paid for the public holidays/weekends if the official engagement is in the country of origin of the Commissioner.
The daily subsistence allowance payable to Commissioners is the allowance payable to officials plus 5%. This is calculated using the rules applicable to officials in the Guide des missions.
Hotel expenses (excluding breakfast and other meals) are reimbursed on presentation of the bill. If hotel expenses exceed € 300 per day, a justification shall be attached to the statement of expenses.
Other expenses justified by the nature of the mission are reimbursed on application and on presentation of supporting documents. Entertainment and representation expenses must be claimed separately in line with a Commission decision governing such expenses.
Commissioners must send an application as soon as possible for the reimbursement of mission expenses to the PMO using the appropriate form.
Claims must contain the following details:
- the purpose of the mission,
- the place of mission,
- date and time of departure and arrival at the place of employment by
the means of transport used,
- starting and finishing times of the work,
- number of days' leave, if any, combined with the mission,
- transport costs paid on the spot by the Commissioner,
- hotel expenses (excluding breakfast and other meals),
- any meals paid by third parties for the Commissioner,
- other expenses for which reimbursement is claimed.
All supporting documents must be attached.
Certain expenses typically incurred on missions by Commissioners may be paid at the destination by Representative Offices and Commission Delegations, provided a request signed by the Head of Cabinet is made beforehand to the PMO for authorisation to incur the expenditure. The PMO will send this request to DG BUDG for approval. However, this is an exceptional procedure only to be used when payments are not possible by other means. In this context, corporate credit cards are the most appropriate way of payment and their use is highly recommended.
The type and expected amount of expenses must be specified. These expenses
will be charged to the Commissioner's allocation once it has been declared
by the Office or Delegation concerned, provided a travel order has been
drawn up. Otherwise, they will be treated as private expenses and deducted
from the Commissioner's salary.
Special rules concerning missions by commssionners' drivers and the use of the car pools of Commission offices and delegations in other countries
Under Article 14 of the Commission's Decision of 14 September 1979, all Commissioners have an official car and driver assigned to them at all times. Drivers may not be asked to make private journeys if this involves overtime or mission expenses for the driver, unless security dictates.
Drivers are covered by a travel order when driving the official car of a Commissioner, even if the Commissioner or a private office official is not in the car, when returning from an official destination or bringing the car back from there. Claims for mission expenses should be filled in by the driver and signed by the Head of
Cabinet, giving the following particulars:
- purpose of the mission,
- the place of mission,
- route taken,
- date and time of departure and return to workplace,
- hotel expenses (excluding breakfast and other meals),
- other details included on the claims form.
Drivers’ mission expenses are covered by the private office’s own mission budget.
A Commissioner visiting a Representative Office or a Commission Delegation
is entitled to an official car on the spot, if the Office or Delegation
is directly involved in the mission. If it is not, a self-drive or chauffeur-driven
car may be hired from a local car-hire firm. Car-hire costs are charged
to the Commissioner's mission allocation.