Staff obligations - up to 30th April 2004
Officials must carry out their duties and conduct themselves solely with the interests of the Communities in mind. They may not, without the permission of the appointing authority, accept favours or gifts from third parties, and must abstain from any public expression of opinion that might reflect badly on their position. They may not have any interest in undertakings which have dealings with the EU institutions, and any outside activities must first be approved. Officials must also tell their employer if and how their spouse is employed. They are also required to inform the appointing authority if, in the performance of their duties, they are called upon to decide on a matter in which they have a personal interest which might impair their impartiality.
An official wishing to stand as a candidate for election to political office is required to apply for up to three months' leave on personal grounds. If he or she is elected, the appointing authority decides what that official's employment status should be.
After leaving the service officials must behave with integrity and discretion as regards the acceptance of certain appointments or benefits. For staff leaving specific higher categories, the appointing authority has to approve any occupation in the first three years of leaving the service.
Officials must keep to themselves all facts and information coming to their knowledge in the course of their duties. In legal proceedings any such information may not be disclosed without permission from the appointing authority. Nor may any books or articles be published without permission from the appointing authority. All rights to the writings or other works of an official are the property of the employer.
Officials may not live so far from the place of employment as to obstruct their work.
Officials must assist and tender advice to their superiors. They are responsible for the performance of the duties assigned to them. However, this responsibility does not absolve their superior in any way from responsibility for his or her area of authority.
Officials may be required to make good any damage suffered by the Communities as a result of serious misconduct on their part.
The privileges and immunities enjoyed by officials are accorded solely in the interests of the Communities. Unless otherwise stated, officials must comply with the laws and police regulations in force.
The Communities assist their officials, in particular in the case of threats and insults to which they may be subjected by reason of their position. They also compensate for damage suffered, in so far as the official did not cause the damage either intentionally or through grave negligence.
As stated in the last section, officials are entitled to exercise the right of association. They may also submit requests to the administration. Any decision relating to them regarding appointment, establishment, promotion, etc. is to be communicated directly in writing to the official concerned. Personal files contain all documents relating to an official's administrative status and all appraisal reports.
Soon after talking up office, the Prodi Commission adopted a Code of good administrative behaviour, which lays down rules of behaviour for EU staff in their relations with the public. The Code is based on three key horizontal rules - courtesy, objectivity and impartiality - and contains rules governing requests for documents, answering correspondence, protection of personal data and confidential information, and administrative procedures.
Officials who fail to comply with their obligations under the Staff Regulations (e.g. official duties, or offences under national criminal law), be it intentionally or as a result of negligence, may be liable to disciplinary action, ranging from a written warning to a reprimand, deferment of advancement to a higher step, relegation in step or downgrading, or removal from service, where appropriate with a reduction or withdrawal of entitlement to retirement pension. The Commission's Investigation and Disciplinary Office (IDOC) conducts inquiries in such cases and prepares disciplinary proceedings. The appointing authority (in this case a group of three directors-general for all officials with the exception of A 1 and A 2) decides on the disciplinary action to be taken. If the appointing authority decides that the case merits a penalty more serious than a written warning or a reprimand, it must open disciplinary proceedings before the Disciplinary Board, which gives a reasoned opinion. At all stages of the proceedings officials are entitled to defend themselves, and may use a defence counsel of their choice. Officials may be suspended from service if they have failed to carry out their official duties or have violated the law.
In the event of difficulties between the administration and staff, the mediator is there to provide rapid solutions by helping to resolve disputes in an unbureaucratic manner. The mediator is not directly empowered to take decisions, but instead acts as an arbitrator and conciliator. He/she deals with individual cases only, is independent and does not participate in devising and implementing overall staff policy.
If the mediator is persuaded by the arguments of an official seeking help, he or she can make proposals to the administration to resolve the dispute, thus helping individual officials feel that they are not alone in the face of an all-powerful authority. Following successful arbitration, not only can the Commission count once more on the renewed motivation of the official in question, it also cuts down on the number of court proceedings and other red tape. If the mediator cannot persuade the superior of the official in question to accept the arbitration proposals, he or she may inform the responsible director-general, who must again take a decision.
Each official is also entitled to introduce a written complaint against a measure under Article 90(2) of the Staff Regulations.
The reform package set out to structure the rules on misconduct, disciplinary proceedings and the mediator professionally and more systematically. Specifically, a new administrative procedure is being introduced for misconduct, such as consistently poor work, frequent absences or substance abuse. Such misconduct is often rooted in psychological or social factors, for which the current disciplinary procedures could be out of proportion.