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Europe severe on "small" gifts

A Chinese porcelain vase, a tapestry donated by Ukrainian President Yanukovych, a Gazprom pen… The European Commission's “gift register” looks a bit like an antique store.

This may seem ridiculous. But it is one of the obligations imposed by the code of conduct which the European Commission adopted at the end of 2004. It must be said that the stay on a yacht of a wealthy Greek shipowner by José-Manuel Barroso just before he took office had made people talk.

Any gift of more than 150 euros must therefore be declared and handed over to the protocol department. This code also limits the use of air taxis. And any private trip must be paid for on his personal kitty by the person concerned. The use of the services of a commission driver for private use is strictly supervised. And stays in a hotel are only reimbursed up to 300 euros. Finally, when a former commissioner finds a position related to his former functions within a year, he must obtain authorization from an ethics committee to verify the absence of conflict of interest.

Of course, all is not perfect. And there are still slippages. Thus the former commissioner Charlie McCreevy, cantor of free competition, found a job at Ryanair. And Industry Commissioner Günther Verheugen has set up a European lobbying firm. If both swore that they would not use their old relationships, no one really believes it...

Le code de conduite est donc en passe être durci. Le nouveau texte interdit plus précisément aux commissaires tout voyage aux frais de gouvernement ou d’entreprises. A Bruxelles, on ne badine pas, en effet, avec certaines coutumes. Et la pratique française du « Air Dictactor » – comme l’a récemment dénommé un média européen – est regardée avec un zeste de commisération.

Nicolas GROS-VERHEYDE.
Article published in Ouest-France

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).