A Culture based on service and efficiency
The Commission aims to be a world class public administration whose first concern is the quality of service it provides to citizens and taxpayers. It wants to be associated in the minds of Europe's citizens with high quality, honesty, openness and integrity. These have been the Commission's operating values since the birth of the European Union. The reform process made a new commitment to these values, enshrining them in a new approach to management based on four principles:
In many areas of the Commission's work, responsibility had become blurred by procedures that tended to obscure, rather than to reveal whom had actually taken a decision or approved expenditure. The reform process remedied this by clearly defining the responsibilities of individuals at all levels, including the College of Commissioners.
As a European Institution, the Commission is formally accountable to the citizen in various ways. It reports, for example, to the Council and the European Parliament on its activities and its decisions can be challenged in the European Court of Justice. At the same time the Commission's accountability has been strengthened by greater openness to public scrutiny.
The Commission has to deliver its services in the most cost-effective way. Efficiency has been and is being ensured by simplifying procedures and modifying, or removing, rules which stand in the way of common sense. Decentralisation has also increased efficiency by clearly defining responsibilities and encouraging officials to use their own initiative.
This also included externalising implementation tasks of certain programmes to executive agencies or of administrative tasks to administrative Offices, thus focusing Commission staff resources on the Institution’s core tasks
The term ‘transparency’ deserves clearer definition than it is often given. To the Commission, it means that its procedures and actions must be open to public scrutiny.
Reform has brought significant improvements to the Commission’s transparency and efficiency in dealing with the public. The Code of Good Administrative Behaviour has set rules aimed at guaranteeing a high quality service to the public. These include the right of every person to have his/her affairs handled impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time. Furthermore, the Regulation regarding public access to documents (2001) grants a right of access to Commission documents to any EU citizen.
Considerable improvements have also been made in enhancing European governance, establishing principles and minimum standards for public consultations (see the ‘Your voice in Europe’ website) and putting new emphasis on impact assessments for major legislative and policy-defining proposals in the Commission’s Annual Work Programme.
But transparency also has an internal application and requires effective communication between all levels of the administration, openness to new ideas and a readiness to accept criticism as a positive encouragement to do better.
That’s why simplification of procedures and working methods has become a regular part of Commission’s activities, which has developed beyond what was envisaged in the White Paper.