Ref. Ares(2018)839452 - 13/02/2018
to Staff Ethics
Table of Contents
1. Introduction and scope of application . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
2. Principles of staff ethics and conduct . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Ethical principles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Golden Rules of Staff Conduct . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
3. The Ethics Network in the Commission . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
4. Relations with the public . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Serving the citizen . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Requests from the media . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
Rights of interested parties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
Contacts with interest groups (lobbies) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
Protection of personal data . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
Non-disclosure of information / confidentiality (Article 339 of
the TFEU and Article 17 of the Staff Regulations) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
Representation expenses for official purposes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13
5. Behaviour at work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14
Relations with the hierarchy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14
Relations among colleagues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14
Use of Commission means of communication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14
6. Individual obligations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16
Conduct reflecting on your position . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16
Avoidance of conflicts of interest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16
Declaring a potential conflict of interest . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
Gifts, favours, payments, honours and decorations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
Honours and decorations (medals) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18
Declaring the professional activities of your spouse . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18
Requesting prior permission for outside activities during active
service or leave on personal grounds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18
Standing for public office . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19
Being elected or appointed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19
Giving evidence in legal proceedings and immunity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19
Right of freedom of expression (publications and speeches) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20
Obligations after leaving the service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .21
7. Prevention and sanctions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
Ethical reasoning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
Financial liability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
Reporting serious wrongdoing (Whistleblowing) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
Harassment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24
Administrative inquiries and disciplinary procedures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25
1. Staff Regulations, Title II – Rights and Obligations of Officials
2. Code of Good Administrative Behaviour
3. List of reference documents regarding ethics
1. Introduction and scope
The Commission has a threefold role within the institu-
The guide is intended to offer wide-ranging information
tional system of the European Union: as guardian of the and advice on a variety of issues, ranging from behav-
Treaties, initiator of legislation and manager of policies ioural tips to compliance with legal obligations under
and programmes. As a public body, the Commission is the Staff Regulations, a violation of which could lead to
accountable to the other institutions, most notably the disciplinary measures or even criminal sanctions.
European Parliament, as well as to the Member State
governments, and ultimately, to the citizens, for ensur-
When it comes to the fulfilment of individual obliga-
ing that its staff meets the highest standards in terms tions, it is worth keeping in mind that the details of
of independence, integrity, impartiality and objectivity.
each case vary and staff have, therefore, to exercise
good judgement and common sense in weighing up
The present Guide looks at how these standards should the particular aspects of a given situation. This guide
be applied by the individual staff member on three levels should provide the tools to help staff in this process
– relations with the public, behaviour at work (with hierar-
chy and colleagues), and individual obligations. A breach
of these standards could lead to disciplinary measures.
The Staff Regulations (and the CEOS1) lay down the This Practical Guide to Staff Ethics and Conduct aims
basic principles governing relations between the EU in-
to make the standards and obligations concerned and
stitutions and their staff. Of particular importance with the relevant procedures transparent and easy to under-
regard to staff ethics and conduct is Title II of the Staff
stand. It is for information purposes only. The Guide is
Regulations (see Annex 1 for full text), which deals with not legally binding.
rights and obligations of officials and to which refer-
ence is frequently made in this Guide. The Staff Regula-
Only the legal texts are binding and must be referred
tions are complemented by decisions and guidance in to by either the Commission administration or by any
specific domains, as well as by the Financial Regulation.
Commission staff member in any legal or administrative
proceedings. While every effort has been made to give
The Code of Good Administrative Behaviour provides accurate guidance, the only authentic interpretation of
guidance on how Commission staff should serve the the rules is to be found in the judgments of the Court of
public. This code does not have the same legal status Justice, the General Court and the Civil Service Tribunal.
as the Staff Regulations, but it constitutes a set of in-
ternal rules which staff members are obliged to follow.
The guide is addressed to Commission statutory staff
(officials, temporary agents, contract agents and spe-
cial advisors). However, other staff working for the
Commission such as persons employed under private
law contracts, experts on secondment from national
civil services (SNEs), trainees, and external experts can
use it as a point of reference in addition to the specific
rules regarding their particular situation2.
1 Conditions of Employment of Other Servants of the European Union
2 For persons employed under private law - terms of contract; for
SNEs - Commission Decision C(2008)6866; for trainees - Commission
the Financial Regulation, Articles 32 and 287 of the Implementing Rules
Decision C(2005)458; for external experts - the rules regarding conflict
of the Financial Regulation, the Communication from the President to the
of interests and confidentiality in accordance mainly with Article 57 of
Commission C(2010)7649 and specific contract provisions.
2. Principles of staff
ethics and conduct
Golden Rules of Staff
Only by aspiring to the highest standards of integrity
can you ensure the Commission’s credibility. In fact eth-
ics is integrity in action. When we have integrity, we act In order to adhere to the essential elements of staff
ethically, which means adhering consistently to ethical ethical conduct, staff should:
standards and making sound decisions based on these
standards. For the Commission to fulfil its mission of
Serve exclusively the public interest, by acting
serving the common good and the public interest, your
with integrity and being objective and impartial
conduct and decision-making has to be irreproachable
in their work;
and guided by the following principles:
Be loyal to the Commission;
Provide citizens and others with the quality service
Independence – staff conduct and decision-mak-
they would expect themselves;
ing should be determined by the need to serve
Remember that they are the human face of
the common good and the public interest, and
the Commission and that others will judge the
never by any other interests whether private or
Commission on the basis of what they see and
otherwise or as a result, for example, of political
Carry out the assigned tasks with responsibility
Impartiality - in any decisions staff are called
and to the best of their ability;
upon to make, their approach should be unbiased..
Treat colleagues with respect;
Objectivity – when drawing conclusions, these
should be balanced and based on a thorough
analysis of the facts and the legal background.
Loyalty – loyalty towards the Commission is
essential for maintaining its independence and
achieving its mission. It is also necessary for the
functioning of each service.
Putting these principles into practice requires:
Circumspection – stopping and reflecting on the
possible consequences and implications of poten-
tial actions, showing a proper degree of modera-
tion and conducting oneself at all times with a
due sense of proportion.
A sense of responsibility - carrying out those tasks
entrusted to you as dutifully as possible and look-
ing for solutions, when difficulties are encountered.
Knowing and respecting the legal obligations and
Make sure their conduct is beyond reproach, by
administrative rules and procedures in force.
not knowingly being a party to an activity that
Transparency and accountability – bearing in
could bring the Commission into disrepute or
mind that as civil servants staff must act in a
could cause staff impartiality to be questioned;
transparent manner and be ready to justify the
Ensure an awareness of the relevant legal obliga-
reasons for particular actions and the context in
tions, rules and procedures;
which they have been taken.
In case of doubts about whether something staff
do or are asked to do is ethical, staff should con-
sult the relevant information – including this guide
– and if in doubt, ask their superior or the ethics
correspondent in their local human resources unit.
3. The Ethics Network
in the Commission
You have a question or a specific problem in the domain
of professional ethics and you don’t know who to contact?
First of all, contact your local ethics correspondent.
Each DG has appointed these staff “to serve as the fo-
cal and first contact point for all ethics related issues,
both for the services and their staff. When dealing with
queries from staff the ethics correspondents act in
At the central level, unit DG HR.B.1 - Ethics, Rights and
Obligations is responsible for the general policy on eth-
ics for staff members and serves as a reference point
for the ethics correspondents.
For any questions regarding Commissioners and the
overall broader coordination in respect of Public Ser-
vice deontology, SG.B.4 – Public Service Ethics is the
As far as disciplinary questions are concerned, IDOC and
OLAF are the responsible services (for more information
please see Chapter 7 – “Prevention and sanctions”).
1 Communication from Vice-President Kallas to the Commission on
enhancing the environment for professional ethics in the Commission
4. Relations with the
Relations with the public form an essential part of the The citizen’s right to information
Commission’s mission to serve the public interest. In
contacts with the public, staff should be guided by the Any citizen of the Union or any natural or legal person
principles of openness and transparency, while behav-
residing or having its registered office in a Member State
ing with circumspection, as well as courtesy, helpful-
is entitled to expect a speedy response when they ad-
ness and efficiency.
dress queries to the Commission. Furthermore, Article 15
of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
All staff members can have an impact on how the Com-
(TFEU) grants them a right of access to European Parlia-
mission, and, by extension, the EU, is seen – through ment, Council and Commission documents.
their professional activities, as well as in their life out-
side work. How they act will influence the image people Dealing with enquiries (correspondence,
form of the Commission and its staff. Staff should think telephone calls and e-mails)
of themselves as an ‘ambassador’ for the Commission
and the EU Institutions.
The Commission undertakes to answer enquiries from
citizens in the most appropriate manner and within a
Serving the citizen
As a general rule for written correspondence, a substan-
Serving the public means putting citizens first. Relations tive answer should be provided within 15 working days
with the public should be based on the following standards:
(Code of Good Administrative Behaviour). If this is not
possible, a holding response should be given within this
Lawfulness – staff should act in accordance with period. When replying in writing, the language of the re-
the law and apply the rules and procedures laid quest should be used, provided it is one of the EU official
down in EU legislation and implementing rules.
languages. Proper contact details should also be included.
Non-discrimination and equal treatment – staff
The written responses must be registered and filed.
should respect the principle of non-discrimination
and, in particular, guarantee equal treatment for When answering telephone calls, staff should clearly
members of the public irrespective of nationality, identify themselves or their department and treat the
gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or beliefs, caller at all times in a courteous and efficient manner.
disability, age or sexual orientation.
They should return telephone calls as promptly as pos-
Proportionality – staff should ensure that the meas-
sible. When dealing with enquiries within their field of
ures taken are proportional to the aim pursued.
responsibility, they should establish the caller’s identity
Consistency – staff should be consistent in their and check whether information has already been made
administrative behaviour and follow the Com-
public or is accessible to the public before giving it out.
mission’s normal practice. Any exceptions to this If this is not the case, they should explain why the infor-
principle should be duly justified.
mation cannot be disclosed. For subjects outside their
Objectivity and impartiality – staff should al-
field of competence, staff should direct the caller to the
ways act objectively and impartially, in the Union appropriate service. When in doubt, staff should request
interest and for the public good. They should act confirmation in writing of telephone enquiries or draft a
independently within the framework of the policy note to the file recalling the content of the conversation.
fixed by the Commission and their conduct should
never be guided by personal or national interest Where correspondence can reasonably be considered
or political pressure.
as “repetitive, abusive and/or pointless”, the Commis-
sion reserves the right to discontinue any such ex-
changes of correspondence. Each service is responsi-
ble for taking such a decision, but in the interests of Requests for documents
ensuring a coordinated, coherent response on the part
of Commission services, a copy of any letter informing The principle of transparency requires giving the citizen
a member of the public of the decision to discontinue the opportunity to have access to the documents held
correspondence should be sent to the Secretariat-Gen-
by the Commission. A specific guide for officials on how
eral’s Mail and Document Management Unit (sg-acc-
to deal with these requests is available on the website
concerning access to documents (see below).
It is also important to guarantee continuity of service What then do you do if you receive a request from a
by ensuring, wherever possible, that phones are an-
citizen for a specific document?
swered or use is made of voice mail.
Specific rules for access to documents are laid down in
E-mail messages should be treated promptly follow-
Regulation (EC) 1049/2001.
ing the guidelines on telephone calls (described above)
or on documents. Indeed, the e-mail message is, by its The term “document” in the sense of this regulation
nature, the equivalent of a document (in the sense of means “any content whatever its medium (written on
Regulation (EC) 1049/2001) . If specifically treated as a paper or stored in electronic form or as a sound, visual or
letter/document, it should be handled according to the audio-visual recording)”. However, access to documents
guidelines on written correspondence, including being concerns only already existing and specified documents.
registered and filed (described above) and should be
subject to the same deadlines. To guarantee continu-
Furthermore, access to a document has to be refused
ity of service, staff should remember to use the ‘out of (totally or partially) if its disclosure would undermine
office’ function when not available and give the name the protection of privacy and the integrity of the indi-
and telephone number of a contact person.
vidual in accordance with EU legislation concerning the
protection of personal data (see “Protection of personal
data” below). It is also important to underline that the
person concerned must be consulted before the release
of any such personal data.
For more information on how to apply the Code of
If the document requested has been published, you
Good Administrative Behaviour and contact points,
should direct the person making the request to the rel-
please see the Commission GoPro Guide.
evant webpage on the Europa site where the document
is available, to the Publications Office’s sales agents,
Regarding your obligations with regard to non-
or to the nearest documentation or information centre
disclosure of information, please see the relevant
providing free access to documents (Info-Points, Euro-
pean documentation centres, etc.).
For inquires outside your field of professional
If a document has not yet been made public, you
competence, it may be appropriate to redirect a
may still be able to make it available, but this must
citizen to the Commission’s Europa Website.
be checked first and the relevant procedures followed.
You should contact the person appointed in your DG as
For more information regarding the use of social
coordinator for the handling of applications for access
media see Administrative Notice n° 34/2011.
to documents. The Secretariat-General can also be of
assistance when dealing with access requests.
For questions regarding “staff as ambassadors”,
please see the General Guidelines for “Staff as
Ambassadors” (SEC (2007) 912/9).
For the rules on access to documents, and contact
details, see the Access to Documents Guide on the
Requests from the media
See the Commission Guide to procedures (GoPro)
and the General Guidelines for “Staff as Ambassa-
dors” (SEC (2007) 917/9).
What should you do if contacted by a journalist? As a
general rule, DG Communication and the Spokespersons’ Rights of parties with
Service are responsible for contacts with the media. a direct interest in
Especially where a request is of a political nature, you
should refer the journalist directly to the Spokespersons’ administrative decision
Service, giving them the contact details if necessary.
However, when requests for information concern tech-
nical subjects falling within your specific areas of re-
When dealing with administrative decisions, you should
sponsibility, you may answer them, subject to prior bear in mind, in accordance with the (sometimes very
clearance from your hierarchical superior and/or your specific) rules governing the relevant administrative
DG’s information and communication unit or media/
procedure, the following duties:
public relations officer. Offer to call back if necessary.
There is no justification for not giving a journalist an
Listen to all parties with a direct interest. Where
item of factual, technical information that would be
EU law provides that interested parties should be
given to any member of the public. It is, nevertheless,
heard, staff, in accordance with the conditions set
advisable to consider carefully the nature of the infor-
out by that law, should ensure that an opportunity
mation in question and in any event notify the Spokes-
is given to them to make their views known.
person responsible, so that they can decide to answer
Justify decisions. As a general rule, full justifi-
themselves or supplement the information given to the
cation for decisions should be given. Where this
journalist, if necessary. In this respect certain individual
may not be possible on an individual basis, provi-
DGs have their own supplementary guidance.
sion should be made for standard replies to be
given. These should include the principal reasons
Be aware that you should avoid discussing any matter
justifying the decision taken. However, an inter-
which is still at the preparation or discussion stage and
ested party who expressly requests a detailed
on which the Commission has not adopted an official
justification should be provided with one, while
position. Information on questions of this kind is spe-
respecting the rules on non-disclosure of infor-
cifically a matter for the spokespersons, in consultation
mation (see relevant section below). The reasons
with the cabinets concerned, unless they have given
to be given may vary according to the applicable
specific authorisation to the contrary.
State arrangements for appeals. Where EU law
As a DG expert, you may be asked by the Spokesperson
provides for it, when notifying an interested party
to provide expert information to the media. As a rule,
of a measure, you should clearly state the pos-
this should always be done on an “off the record” or
sibility of lodging an appeal and describe how
to submit it (the name and office address of the
person or department with whom the appeal must
When participating at conferences or other external
be lodged and the deadline for doing so).
events as part of your duties, the possibility of sponta-
neous requests from the media should be anticipated, Contacts with interest
in coordination with your DG’s information and commu-
nication unit or media officer.
Please note that Directors-General and other senior offi-
As the Commission has the right of initiative in the
cials are often called upon to talk to the press on subjects EU legislative process, it is a natural target for inter-
falling under their responsibility. They will coordinate est representation with regard to a policy issue or a
their statements with the Commissioner concerned and legislative initiative. Thousands of lobbyists operate in
DG COMM, especially in the case of policy statements on Brussels, representing practically every sector of com-
matters still under discussion within the DG or service or merce, trade, industry, services, consumer protection,
within the Commission itself, in order to ensure that the regional policy, etc, and including non-governmental
Institution puts out a consistent message.
organisations (NGOs). Their mission is to influence the
EU’s legislative process, whereas the Commission has
an obligation to listen to all parties as well as citizens, Protection of personal data
civil society and representative associations.
Protection of personal data is a fundamental right
On the one hand, interest groups can provide valuable (Charter of Fundamental Rights, Article 8; TFEU, Arti-
input in order to initiate and to prepare legislation that cle 16). The Commission and its staff must respect the
takes full account of the specificities of the domain rules on the protection of personal privacy and personal
data. The principles, the individual’s legally enforceable
rights and the obligations of the institution concerned
On the other hand, they can represent a risk for an ad-
with regard to the processing of personal data are laid
ministration, as the staff involved in policy-making may down in Regulation (EC) No. 45/2001; these are in line
– even inadvertently - be exploited for the purposes of with the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC.
a specific interest group with possible detrimental ef-
fects for the general interest of the Union.
Data processing operations cover a wide range of ac-
tivities from collecting to transfer and storage of data.
In more general terms, to preserve the independence of Except for well-defined special circumstances, it is
the decision making process in the Commission, and/or prohibited to process data on racial or ethnic origin,
the balance of institutional powers, circumspection and political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs or
discretion need to be maintained in other types of con-
trade union membership, health or sex life. The data
tacts, such as with the other EU Institutions and bodies subject (meaning the person whose personal data are
and other organisations, as well as in the management of concerned) has the right to be informed of the process-
programmes and projects and calls for proposals/tenders. ing operations (before the first occurrence) and has the
right to access, rectify, and, where appropriate, block or
It is important that staff keep these potentially conflict-
erase data, to object to the processing and to receive
ing aspects in mind in order to preserve their profes-
compensation for any damage.
sional and personal independence.
It is recommended to check the credentials of a given
interest’s representative to make sure they are, for ex-
ample enrolled in the Register of Interest Representa-
Regulation No 45/2001 of the European Parliament
tives, which is linked to a Code of Conduct for interest
and of the Council on the protection of individuals
representatives. If they are not, this does not prevent
with regard to the processing of personal data.
staff from being in contact with them provided there is
other proof of their credentials, but staff should con-
sider inviting them to enrol. Furthermore, where meet-
ings with interest group representatives are considered Non-disclosure of
appropriate, these should be held in a professionally information / confidentiality
correct manner, if possible on Commission premises, in
the presence of another colleague, i.e. in a way which (Article 339 of the TFEU
cannot give rise to any reputational issues. Staff should
inform their hierarchy in advance and also afterwards and Article 17 of the Staff
about the outcome. A written record of such meetings
should be ensured where these contain important infor-
mation or may involve action by the Commission. Such
reports should be registered and filed.
While the Commission is committed to the principles of
openness and transparency, as outlined in the Code of
Good Administrative Behaviour, there are certain sec-
tors of activity where the principle of non-disclosure of
information and confidentiality requirements may be
applicable (see also page 21).
See GoPro Guide to Procedures and the SG guide-
lines on contacts with the interest groups.
Non-disclosure of information
Without prejudice to the legislation on the protection of
personal data, as a member of staff, or former member
of staff, you have an obligation not to disclose, without
authorisation, information to which you have been ex-
posed in the course of your work, unless that informa-
tion has already been made public or is accessible to
the public (Article 17 of the Staff Regulations).
You may have to deal with sensitive information in the Staff who compromise EU classified information by let-
course of your work. Such information must be managed ting it fall into the hands of unauthorised persons face
with the utmost discretion. For example, this applies to disciplinary procedures and/or criminal prosecution.
commercially sensitive economic data in, among oth-
ers, DG Competition or DG Trade, or staff data in DG HR
(for example medical or personnel matters).
EU non-classified information must be protected
through appropriate markings and consequent handling
See the Commission Security Notices
when needed (e.g. proceedings of an open competition
selection board), as must information which has come
to your knowledge in the course of your duties and re-
lates to persons (e.g. medical secrecy, family life, or fi-
for official purposes
nancial or tax affairs). Professional secrecy regarding
human resources individual data to which defined per-
sons have privileged access (given on a need to know The duty of ethical behaviour also concerns the han-
basis) is a fundamental obligation for all staff working dling of representation expenses which you may incur
in the departments responsible for administering the in your professional capacity. You are obliged to deal in
affairs of Commission staff.
a right and proper way with public funds.
Confidentiality of business information
Certain officials may be granted a fixed allowance if by
reason of their duties they regularly incur representation/
Staff members are specifically required to respect the entertainment expenses (Art 14 of Annex VII of the SR).
confidentiality that intrinsically applies to business in-
If such situations occur from time to time only and as a
formation provided by applicants at particular stages result of special instructions, the amount of entertain-
of a programme or project or specific proceedings. This ment allowance is determined in each instance on the
applies particularly to information relating to the con-
basis of specific conditions and supporting documents. In
tent of tenders submitted for evaluation and selection particular Directors-General, Heads of Service and Heads
(for example, details of a project applicant’s financial of Cabinet (and in some exceptional cases other officials
situation or accounts), business information submitted or agents) are allowed to incur such expenses.
in, for example, competition or trade defence cases.
Such expenses include, for example, official receptions,
You must constantly ensure that such information does dinners, and in general expenses corresponding to dip-
not fall into unauthorised hands, if necessary by stor-
lomatic and courtesy usage, which could have an im-
ing it in secure locations. The unauthorised disclosure pact on the image of the institution and the concept of
of such information can be harmful and the Commis-
sion could be held liable for loss sustained if the act is
attributable to you and the Commission could, in turn, Guests must come from outside of the Commission
bring proceedings against you if you are personally se-
or other institutions and bodies (with the exception of
riously at fault. As a member of staff, you have no per-
members of the Court of Justice, the Court of Audi-
sonal rights over such information, and its use for pur-
tors, the European Parliament, the Economic and So-
poses other than those required for the performance of cial Committee and the Committee of the Regions).
your tasks would constitute a misuse of information. Expenses linked to the presence of family members of
Disclosure of such information must always take place the official authorised to engage such expenses are not
respecting the official channels.
reimbursed. Nevertheless an exception can be granted
when justified by diplomatic or courtesy usage or when
the expenses occur in the official’s home.
With four levels of classification (top secret, secret, con-
Finally, the number of officials from the institutions
fidential and restricted), the Commission’s security pro-
cannot be higher than the number of participants from
visions are aimed at protecting sensitive information the outside.
produced or handled by the Commission from being
compromised, disclosed without authorisation or from
spying. These provisions are in line with the rules on
public access to documents. If a staff member has to
deal with documents falling under the security provi-
Please consult the internal rules regarding represen-
sions they are expected to know the rules. In general,
tation expenses of officials - SEC (95)819
this means considering what needs to be done in your
For more information regarding rules managing en-
immediate environment to protect the information with
tertainment expenses of the members of the College
which you are dealing.
please consult C(2007)3494.
5. Behaviour at work
Ethical behaviour is a way of life and applies to how you Relations among
interact within the Commission, be it with your boss, colleagues
colleagues or other members of staff. At work, you may
be faced with many different types of situations, which
constantly require you to exercise good judgement and Colleagues should be treated with respect and impar-
common sense, in line with the ethical principles and tiality, regardless of their position. In a multi-cultural
standards required of Commission staff.
workplace, mutual respect and tolerance of differences
are essential ingredients of any good working relation-
Furthermore, staff must comply with Article 1d of the Staff
ship. This also involves:
Regulations which prohibits any discrimination based on
any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social ori-
Teamwork – working together to achieve common
gin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political
or any other opinion, membership of a national minority,
Polite and clear communication – engaging colleagues
property, birth, disability, age, or sexual orientation. Any
by showing respect and encouraging efficiency through
form of psychological or sexual harassment is also pro-
clarity of instructions;
hibited (for more information please see Chapter 7).
Conflict resolution – finding workable solutions through
discussions and better mutual understanding;
Zero tolerance of any form of psychological and sexual
Use of Commission means
Whatever your grade, you have the obligation to “assist
and tender advice” to your superiors and you are responsi-
ble for the performance of the duties assigned to you, that Computer equipment, e-mail and Internet access, tele-
is, you must do your job properly (Article 21 of the Staff phones, mobile phones, photocopiers and fax machines
Regulations). The responsibility of a subordinate does not have been installed for official use. However, you may make
release the official from his or her own responsibility.
occasional, limited use of these means of communication
for private purposes, provided that you do not use them:
A member of staff must follow instructions, unless they
are manifestly illegal or constitute a breach of the rele-
for illegal or improper purposes
vant safety standards. You should not confuse this with
in any way that might disrupt the functioning of
simple disagreements or differences of opinion.
the service itself, or
in any manner contrary to the interests and repu-
If your superior instructs you to do something which
tation of the Union.
you consider to be irregular or likely to give rise to se-
For telephones, fax machines and mobile phones, oc-
rious difficulties, you should ask for the instruction to casional personal use is permitted at your expense. For
be confirmed in writing by your immediate superior, telephones and faxes, you need to request a personal-
and then, if necessary, by his or her immediate supe-
ised code, to be used for private communication. The
rior. If the latter confirms the instructions in writing, cost of the private calls is then deducted from your sal-
you should carry them out, unless they are manifestly ary. As such access codes are not yet generally avail-
illegal or breach safety standards (Article 21a of the able for mobile phones; you will have to indicate your
Staff Regulations). However, at your request, he or she private calls on the monthly statements, the cost of
is obliged to give such orders in writing. (See also sec-
which will be deducted from your salary.
tion on ‘Serious wrongdoing’ in Chapter 7.)
For photocopiers and electronic mail, incidental per-
sonal use is acceptable. However, regarding electronic
mail and regardless of the content (e.g. entertainment,
charity, political campaigns or commercial ends, etc.),
you should refrain from sending messages to a wide
or even indiscriminate number of addressees (within
or outside the Commission) and from asking others to
send out such messages widely. This is fundamental
in order to observe the principle of impartiality and to
avoid spamming and maintaining the proper function-
ing of the service.
With respect to the use of the Internet for private pur-
poses, again, incidental use is acceptable. However the
Commission server(s) may not be used where, for ex-
ample, offensive, racist, discriminatory, sexually explicit
or other equally inappropriate websites are accessed
or where other personal use exceeds reasonable limits
(see also page 21 on the use of social media).
Given that the Commission’s servers can be used both
directly from the office and via remote access from
outside Commission premises, do not forget that, usu-
ally, e-mails or other messages sent through the Com-
mission’s system will indicate your Commission e-mail
address and thereby establish a link to the Commission.
Be aware that the Commission is entitled to monitor
the use of information and communication technolo-
gies (ICT) services and that it does so. In the case of
any suspected abuse, your Director-General may re-
quest DG HR to open an investigation into your use of
On the Commission policy regarding use of means
of communication, see Administrative Information
n° 45/2006 and the Communication from the Pres-
ident on Commission policy on the internal use of
mail (SEC (2009) 1412).
6. Individual obligations
To maintain the Commission’s independence and cred-
Conduct reflecting on your
ibility, as a member of staff, you are subject to certain position
reasonable requirements which affect the exercise of
your duties and can have implications for your private
life. For this reason, you are required to request author-
In general terms, you should refrain from any action or
isations or provide notifications in various situations behaviour which might reflect adversely on your posi-
(such as conflicts of interest, gifts, external activities, tion, as stated in the Staff Regulations (Article 12). This
spouse’s employment, or publications or speeches on means that your conduct even outside the office must
EU-related matters). This must be done at your own be exemplary. Professional and private behaviour inside
or outside the Commission should not bring the Euro-
pean civil service into disrepute.
This section examines these situations (addressed most-
ly in the Staff Regulations, Title II on Rights and Obli-
It is worth noting that if your acts or behaviour risk
gations of Officials - see Annex 1 for full text) and the bringing the Commission into disrepute, you could be
procedures to follow.
subject to disciplinary proceedings. This could be the
case, for example, if you were to be convicted of a
crime or a misdemeanour.
In this chapter, frequent reference will be made to
When assessing any act or expression of opinion, ac-
the concept of an ‘Appointing Authority’. This ab-
count will be taken of its impact, especially if it appears
stract term actually describes a system of graduated
to be harmful to the Commission’s reputation.
authority. In practice, the Commission delegates au-
thority in personnel matters to the appropriate levels
of senior and middle management. These managers
Avoidance of conflicts of
are the faces behind the abstract expression “Ap-
In general terms, for some procedures the Appoint-
The overriding idea behind avoiding any conflict of in-
ing Authority’s powers are exercised by your Directo-
terest or even the appearance of a conflict of interest
rate-General. For other obligations addressed in this
is to avoid possible accusations of bias and partiality
chapter, these powers are exercised by DG HR (its
in any decision-making process you may be involved
Director-General or a particular service).
in, so as to maintain the Commission’s independence
and credibility. Key in this context is therefore how best
Given the specific arrangements concerning del-
to prevent such situations from happening. That being
egation of the Appointing Authority’s powers, you
said, everyone can find themselves in a conflict of in-
should consult the relevant tables of the Appoint-
terest situation, despite taking all precautions. If this
ing Authorities or ask for guidance from your ethics
happens, it is essential to know how to react.
correspondent who is normally in your DG’s ‘human
The key steps to avoiding or remedying such situations:
not accepting gifts or favours,
declaring your spouse’s or partner’s professional
providing immediate notification, if, in the course
of your duties, you are called on to decide on
a matter in which you have a personal interest If you are offered a gift with an estimated value of
which could impair your impartiality,
more than €50, you must apply for permission to ac-
seeking prior authorisation for any external ac-
cept it. In any event, permission will not be granted if
tivities (work – paid or unpaid) you may wish to the value exceeds €150. You should avoid accumulat-
undertake during active service,
ing gifts (even below €50 and independently of the
seeking prior authorisation for any work you may source) as this can give rise to a negative image.
wish to undertake, for a period of 2 years after
notifying beforehand your intention to stand for
notifying beforehand the intention to publish any
texts on matters dealing with the work of the Union.
Declaring a potential conflict of interest
Apart from the specific situations and obligations foreseen
by the Staff Regulations mentioned below, and as stipu-
lated in Article 11a of the Staff Regulations, you may not,
during the performance of your duties, deal with any mat-
ter in which you have a direct or indirect personal interest
that may compromise your independence and, by exten-
sion, the Commission’s interests.
Such situations can arise when:
there is some link between your work and your pri-
vate interests, or those of your family or partner;
When deciding on a request to accept a gift, the Ap-
you find yourself in a situation that could reasonably pointing Authority takes into consideration the follow-
lead to allegations being made of bias or partiality, ing factors.
in light of your personal interests.
the nature of the source offering the gift;
If you find yourself in such a situation or are in any doubt as
the apparent motive behind offering the gift;
to whether your circumstances could give rise to concerns
the link between the entity offering the gift and
over a conflict of interests, you should notify the Appointing
Authority immediately by filling in the appropriate declara-
the possible consequences for the Institution’s
tion form. It is also advisable to inform your own hierarchy.
the individual or collective destination of the offer;
Conflicts of interest that may arise within the frame-
the nature and estimated value of the gift;
work of a budgetary action are addressed by the Finan-
the staff member’s work.
cial Regulation (Article 52). Under Article 34 of the im-
plementing measures for the Financial Regulation, the Hospitality offers are considered to be a kind of fa-
competent authority that you must inform of any po-
vour. The acceptance of hospitality will depend on the
tential conflict of interest is your hierarchical superior.
same factors as those outlined above for gifts. However
it may be difficult to assess the value of hospitality of-
Gifts, favours, payments, honours and
fers and this is why the nature of the offer should first
be considered. For instance offers of working lunches or
dinners in which the staff member participates in the
Gifts, favours (hospitality offers) and payments
exercise of his/her duties and in agreement with the
hierarchy, and where there is no risk of conflict of inter-
Article 11 of the Staff Regulations states that you est, can be accepted without prior authorisation. The
should not accept gifts, favours or payments from gov-
same applies for the offers of simple meals, refresh-
ernments or any other source outside the institution, ments and snacks. For all other offers and in case of
without obtaining prior permission from the Appointing doubt, you have to request a prior authorisation by the
Authority. As a general rule, you should decline all such Appointing Authority.
offers that have more than merely symbolic value (such
as diaries, calendars, small desk items, an invitation for Any sum of money must always be refused.
coffee etc.). In some exceptional circumstances (for in-
stance if required by social, courtesy or diplomatic us-
Regarding payments for work actually done, such as
age) and if there is clearly no risk for the interests and conferences or publications (on EU matters), see sec-
public image of the Commission, you may accept some tion below on “Freedom of expression”.
gifts or hospitality.
As to missions where the costs are to be covered by These rules also apply to former staff if the decoration or
an external source, they should be accepted only when honour has any link with their work at the Commission.
in the interest of the service and if there is no risk
of any real, apparent or potential conflict of interests. Declaring the professional activities of
Before the beginning of the mission, the Authorising your spouse
Officer must check that there is no such conflict of in-
terest and confirm this accordingly in the travel order. Under Article 13 of the Staff Regulations, you have an
In many DGs such missions must be approved by the obligation to inform the Appointing Authority if your
spouse is “in gainful employment”, i.e. is doing paid
work. This is in order to prevent any appearance of a
If certain costs were covered by the external source conflict of interest, which could arise because of your
during the mission, a note confirming that there is no respective professional activities. In this respect, un-
(potential) conflict of interest and signed by the Au-
married, legally recognised partners are regarded as
thorising officer must be attached to the statement spouses (for precise details, see Article 1(2)(c) of Annex
VII of the Staff Regulations).
If there is any change in your spouse’s professional situ-
ation, you also need to declare this to the Appointing Au-
thority which will decide on any issue of conflict of interest.
Communication from Vice-President Šefčovič to the Com-
mission on Guidelines on Gifts and Hospitality for staff
The Appointing Authority may decide, after consulting
the Joint Committee, to transfer you to another post, if
the nature of your spouse’s employment is considered
Guide to missions (C(2008)6215)– point 6
incompatible with yours and you are unable to give an
undertaking that your spouse’s activity will cease within
a specified period.
Please note that such declarations under Article 13 of
the Staff Regulations are different from the declara-
Honours and decorations (medals)
tions you need to make to the Paymaster’s Office (PMO)
which may affect your allowances, health insurance for
Bearing in mind the overriding principle of independ-
your spouse etc.
ence, you should not accept from any government or
other source an honour or decoration without prior per-
Requesting prior permission for outside
mission from the Appointing Authority (with an excep-
activities during active service or leave
tion for services rendered before your appointment at on personal grounds
the Commission or during special leave for military or
other national service and in respect of such services). There are fundamental reasons for ensuring that al Com-
Otherwise it might reasonably be considered that the mission staff ask prior authorisation to take on outside
honour has been granted for services rendered to an activities going beyond what can be considered to be a
outside body or national government while the staff hobby, paid or unpaid, in order to ensure your, and thereby
member is working for the Commission, which could the Institution’s, independence and integrity. At a practical
give rise to doubts about the impartiality of the Com-
level, such an outside activity should not:
be so time consuming as to impact negatively
Only national honours and decorations awarded by a
on your work at the Commission, or constitute a
sovereign state or official medals awarded by a sovereign
job in itself;
state or an official organ of that state (ministry, regional
give rise to any possible appearance of a conflict of
or local authorities, universities etc.), or recognised by
interest or be in some other way discreditable, so
an official authority or from any other source outside
as to risk bringing the Commission into disrepute.
the institution (Prix Charlemagne, Carnegie Hero Fund, Furthermore, the amount of remuneration should be
etc.), are subject to the restrictions outlined in Article modest. The maximum net annual remuneration you
11 of the Staff Regulations. Pure “fantasy decorations” may receive for any authorised external activities you
are not covered.
undertake outside the EU institutions is € 4500 (after
taxes). Anything over this amount must be turned over
In deciding, the Appointing Authority will take into con-
to the Commission.
sideration the following factors:
In assessing requests for authorisation under Article
the motive behind giving the honour or decoration;
12b of the Staff Regulations, account is taken of the
the possible consequences for the Institution’s aspects mentioned above. In practice, while respecting
these conditions, you are, for example, likely to be au-
thorised to carry out voluntary work, charity work, or Standing for public office
limited teaching activities.
If you wish to stand for public office, such as a candidate
You are not allowed, however, to carry out any of the in municipal, regional, national or European elections,
following types of activity, for example:
you must first notify the Appointing Authority, in accord-
ance with Article 15 of the Staff Regulations. After your
outside work, whether paid or unpaid, in a “pro-
Director-General has given his/her opinion, the Appoint-
fession” (such as architect, lawyer, economist, ing Authority will decide whether, in the period leading up
accountant, IT professional, engineer, interpreter, to the date of the election or appointment, you:
doctor, translator, etc.);
work in commercial companies, even if it is un-
must take leave on personal grounds (CCP);
paid and the role is merely nominal (such as non-
must take annual leave;
executive director, unpaid adviser, etc.);
may be authorised to work part-time; or
teaching or other pedagogical work, whether paid
may continue to work with no change to your hours.
or not, for more than 100 hours per academic
year, unless your Appointing Authority, after con-
Being elected or appointed
sulting the Director-General for Human Resources
and Security, deems such work beneficial to the If elected or appointed to a position, you must notify
the Appointing Authority without delay by filling in an
As a rule, any request should be submitted two months appropriate form.
before you plan to start the activity in question, to al-
low sufficient time for the processing of your request. Then, on the basis of your Director-General’s opinion
Before making its decision, the Commission assesses and taking into consideration the interests of the Com-
each case on its own merits with regard to the type of mission, the importance of the public office in question,
the duties it would involve and the remuneration and
expenses to which you would be entitled, the Appoint-
As a holder of a special identity card, you do not have ing Authority will decide whether you:
the necessary authorisation to perform any work other
than that for which you were recruited by the Commis-
must make a request for leave on personal
sion. If the Commission allows you to undertake certain
outside activities, you need to keep in mind that you will
must take annual leave;
be subject to the relevant national income tax rules and
can be authorised to work part-time; or
social legislation. In addition, no outside work may be
can continue to work with no change to your hours.
performed either on the premises of the Institutions or Current administrative practice is for the Appointing Au-
during normal working hours.
thority to require staff elected to national parliaments
(either upper or lower house where applicable) or the
Any permission granted under Article 12b of the Staff
European Parliament to take special leave (CCP) for the
Regulations is valid for a maximum of one year from whole term of office.
the date of the decision, or a lesser period, which will
be stated in the decision. If you wish to extend or renew If the Appointing Authority decides to allow you to con-
your permission, you must submit a new application.
tinue working as normal at the Commission, special
leave of no more than 12 days a year may be granted
It should also be noted that if you apply for ‘leave on for this activity on the basis of a duly substantiated
personal grounds’ (‘congé de convenance personnelle’
) and request authorisation to work in this con-
text, the Appointing Authority may make its acceptance
subject to reasonable and proportionate conditions, Giving evidence in legal
in view of your intended activity during the period re-
proceedings and immunity
quested, and may even refuse to grant such leave, if
Depending on your area of activity and your particular
responsibilities, you should be aware of how to deal
with requests to give evidence in legal proceedings and
how the Commission applies the immunity covering
Commission Decision on outside activities and as-
your professional activities as a member of Commis-
Administrative Notice n° 22/2011 – Practical guidance
Giving evidence in legal proceedings
for staff wishing to engage in volunteer activities.
If you are called on to give evidence in legal proceedings
related to your work, you must request prior authorisa-
tion from the Appointing Authority, in line with Article 19 Right of freedom of
of the Staff Regulations. This applies also to the cases expression (publications
which are analogous to legal proceedings such as parlia-
mentary inquires, in which witnesses may be compelled and speeches)
to appear as in Court proceedings. This obligation con-
tinues to apply even after leaving the Commission. This These principles are primarily of relevance when you
however does not apply for giving evidence before the express yourself on professional or EU matters, espe-
Court of Justice of the European Union (including the cially with regard to publications or speeches.
Court of First Instance or the Civil Service Tribunal) or
before a Disciplinary Board of one of the EU institutions. Article 17a of the Staff Regulations grants you the right
to freedom of expression “with due respect to the prin-
To submit such a request for authorisation, you or the ciples of loyalty and impartiality.”
Commission department responsible (the Anti-Fraud
Office, DG HR’s Security Directorate, your Directorate-
Publications and speeches and
General, etc.) should send it, along with supporting docu-
compensation for them
ments (in particular the judicial body’s request), to the
Publications and speeches on professional and EU
However, such requests may also be made by a national
judicial or police authority without you being informed.
If the Commission is asked to maintain the secrecy of
the procedure, you would be informed of the lifting of
your immunity only when summoned to a hearing by the
Immunity from legal proceedings
Article 11(a) of the Protocol on the Privileges and Im-
munities of the European Union (PPI) stipulates that
officials and other servants of the Union shall “... be im-
mune from legal proceedings in respect of acts per-
formed by them in their official capacity, including their
words spoken or written. They shall continue to enjoy
this immunity after they have ceased to hold office.” Be If you want to publish or to have published, either on
aware that this immunity exists solely in the interests your own or with other parties, a document, such as an
of the Union (Article 17 of the PPI) and covers only acts article or a book, on anything dealing with the work of
relating to professional life. In practice, when national the EU, you must inform your Appointing Authority in ad-
judicial authorities request it, such immunity is system-
vance, as provided in Article 17a of the Staff Regulations.
In this respect, you must provide the Appointing Au-
For matters relating to private life, the question of im-
thority with any relevant information, in particular a
munity does not even arise and the official is subject to copy, in electronic form, of the document you intend
national civil and criminal law1.
to publish. This must be accompanied by a summary,
in electronic form, in one of the Commission’s working
Requests to lift the immunity made by national judicial languages.
authorities are dealt with by DG HR’s Investigation and
Disciplinary Office (IDOC). Any final decision to lift im-
Where the Appointing Authority can demonstrate that
munity is adopted by the Commission. Where the na-
the matter is liable to prejudice seriously the legitimate
tional judicial authorities ask for the procedure to be interests of the Union, it has to inform you of its decision
secret, the Commission must comply with that request.
within 30 working days of receipt of the information. If
it does not reply within this time limit, the Appointing
In addition, Article 23(2) of the Staff Regulations re-
Authority is considered to have had no objections. How-
quires officials to inform the Appointing Authority (i.e. ever, the lack of a reaction does not prejudice the pos-
the Director-General for Human Resources and Secu-
sible application of such a provision as Article 12 of the
rity) immediately if immunity is in dispute.
Staff Regulations, if the publication turns out to contain
material which is, for example, defamatory or insulting.
Nor does it preclude the possible application of Article
24 of the Staff Regulations, if other officials request
1 As has been confirmed by rulings of the European Court of Justice,
assistance against what they may see as defamatory
Article 23 of the Staff Regulations stipulates that officials “shall not be
exempt from fulfilling their private obligations or from complying with
statements in the work. The author remains personally
the laws and police regulations in force.”
responsible for the published material.
These rules and procedures also apply to speeches and publication (including its writing/preparation) or speech
any form of public or private communication outside could be considered as an outside activity, notably, if
the scope of your duties, where they relate to EU mat-
under contract, and/or would entitle you to any financial
ters and are or may be published. Blogs are subject to payment, you must ask your Appointing Authority for
the same principles as publications.
prior authorisation to accept it (see also section above
on “Requesting prior permission for external activities”).
Limitations on the freedom of expression Royalties received for such publications are not subject
to the annual ceiling of €4500 that applies to work you
While the Staff Regulations (Article 17a (1)) grant of-
undertake outside the Commission.
ficials and other staff the right to freedom of expres-
sion, when it comes to your professional activity this is Please note that in this case too, blogs are subject to
subject to the following conditions being met:
you must show restraint and caution in expressing Regarding social media (Twitter, Facebook, You-
opinions, especially when these obviously diverge tube….), staff should remember that they must, as a
from well-known policies of the institution; this is matter of principle, only use them in their personal ca-
particularly so if you occupy a management post; pacity. This should be clarified in an appropriate way
such opinions or any others regarding EU policies (for instance in the “profile”). Statements and opinions
must be expressed with moderation and under are personal and do not represent the Commission’s
your sole responsibility (i.e. with a disclaimer);
position. They should not give the impression of doing
As a general rule you should refrain from tackling so. In any event, when using social media, you should
professional issues linked to specific files you are act responsibly and therefore refrain from any actions
in charge of, if outside your working environment.
or statements which might reflect adversely upon your
position and the Commission (Article 12 of the Staff
You are also subject to the rules concerning non-disclo-
Regulations. When activities in social media amount to
sure of information and the confidentiality requirement actual publications on EU-related matters prior notifi-
(discussed in the chapter on ‘Relations with the public’).
An exception is made when the staff member is specifi-
cally authorised to represent the Commission’s views.
If the publication (including its writing/preparation) or
speech would entitle you to any financial payment, you
must ask your Appointing Authority for prior authorisa-
tion to accept it (see also section above on “Requesting
prior permission for external activities”).
Administrative Notice n° 34/2011 – Social Media
Royalties received for publications, to which the Appoint-
Guidelines for all staff
ing Authority raised no objections, are not subject to the
net annual ceiling of €4500 that applies to work you are
authorised to undertake outside the Commission.
If a publication or speech forms part of your work dur-
Obligations after leaving
ing a mission for the Commission (e.g. it may happen the service
that you are offered a fee for a speech you make while
on outside assignment, which would count as part of your
normal work), you must specify the exact amount in your During their professional life, officials acquire not only
travel request (mission order form) or at least in your sub-
professional experience but also a certain “stand-
sequent expenses claim (mission declaration of expens-
ing” linked to their position in the European public
es). If you receive the payment after your expenses for the service, and they may have had access to sensitive
assignment are reimbursed, you must inform the service information. While there is nothing wrong in this,
responsible for dealing with reimbursement of mission ex-
any privileged situation should not be used in a way
penses. If you make a speech in the same location as your that would cause a situation of conflict of interest or
place of work, you must declare any amounts you receive damage the Commission’s image. This is why even
to the Remunerations section of the PMO. These are then after leaving the service, former officials and staff
deducted either from the balance of your expenses claim are still subject to certain obligations. In particular,
or from your next salary payment.
they must “behave with integrity and discretion”
stipulated in Article 16 of the Staff Regulations.
Publications and speeches on other (non-EU) matters
Former officials and staff are therefore bound not
For publications or speeches on non-EU matters, you do to accept any duties or professional activities after
not require any authorisation to publish. However, if the leaving the service that would be incompatible with
the interests of the Union. If you are intending to
engage in an occupational activity, whether paid or
unpaid, within two years of leaving the service, you
must inform the Commission. If that activity is re-
lated to the work carried out during your last three
years of service and could lead to a conflict with the
legitimate interests of the Commission, the Appoint-
ing Authority could forbid you from undertaking it
or give its approval subject to any conditions it sees
fit. The Commission has 30 working days to notify
you of its decision. If no such notification has been
received by the end of this period, this is deemed to
constitute implicit acceptance.
If in doubt, please contact DG HR. B.1 and you will be
told what details are needed to assess your case.
Recipients of an invalidity allowance or an invalidity
pension may only take up gainful employment if they
have first been authorised by the Appointing Authority.
According to Article 339 of the TFEU “(…) the officials
and other servants of the Union shall be required, even
after their duties have ceased, not to disclose informa-
tion of the kind covered by the obligation of profession-
al secrecy, in particular information about undertakings,
their business relations or their cost components.”
Former officials and staff must also at all times and
without limitation in time “refrain from any unauthor-
ised disclosure of information received in the line of
duty, unless that information has already been made
public or is accessible to the public”
, in line with Article
17 of the Staff Regulations. Staff members leaving the
service are required by DG HR to sign a “Declaration
of Honour” which includes a commitment to restore, at
the time of departure, any document or written notes
belonging to the files or the series of non-public docu-
ments managed by the official during his/her activities
at the Commission.
Under Article 19 of the Staff Regulations, former offi-
cials and staff also continue to be bound by the obliga-
tion with regard to giving evidence in legal proceedings
(see section above).
Commission Decision on outside activities and as-
7. Prevention and
What if something goes wrong? Notwithstanding exist-
ing rules, it may happen. The Commission has a series of
laid down in Article 22 of the Staff Regulations, as
means for resolving these problems, ranging from pre-
a member of staff, you could be required to make
vention to disciplinary procedures.
good, in whole or in part, any damage suffered by the
Union as a result of serious misconduct in connec-
This section of the guide seeks to offer you some gen-
tion with the performance of your duties. Obviously,
eral advice when confronted with ethical problems. It is
this does not concern a simple error or a slight mis-
important to know what to do if confronted with some
take causing financial damage. However, financial li-
difficult situations as the result of the behaviour or con-
ability could be invoked if you have caused financial
duct of other colleagues, such as serious wrongdoing or
damage through deliberate, improper behaviour or
gross negligence. In such cases, all relevant circum-
stances are taken into account before any decision
It is also important to know how the Commission inves-
is taken. For more information, see the guidelines
tigates reported violations of obligations and, where ap-
for applying Article 22 adopted by the Commission
propriate, pursues disciplinary proceedings.
For comprehensive information on budget manage-
ment and implementation, accounting and finan-
cial reporting, internal control issues, procure-
In trying to resolve possible ethical dilemmas, which can
ment and other related issues, you should consult
arise when different values and principles come into conflict
with one another, think about the following suggestions:
For more information on internal audit activities,
Analyse the situation by looking at the facts,
see the Internal Audit Service’s website on Europa:
circumstances and relevant rules, in order to
identify possible options;
Consider the consequences of the different op-
For more information on the anti-fraud activities,
tions, as well as the consequences of not acting;
see OLAF’s website on Europa: http://ec.europa.eu/
Check whether other persons involved (hierar-
chy, colleagues) agree with the options you iden-
tify or see alternatives;
Take action based on the best option identified;
Evaluate the real impact of your action and wrongdoing
any feedback; as such experience can serve as
a precedent or a good point of departure when (Whistleblowing)
faced with a similar situation in the future.
All organisations face the risk of things going seri-
ously wrong or of unknowingly harbouring a corrupt
individual. Usually, the first people to suspect or realise
that there is a problem are those who work in the or-
While it is not the focus of this guide, depending on
ganisation or with it. In tackling cases of wrongdoing
your duties, you may also have financial responsibili-
it is crucial to have a reporting system in place that
ties. In this respect, it is important to recall that, as
inspires confidence and can help break down any ‘walls
of silence’. The Staff Regulations seek to address the
problem through requiring staff to report any possible
serious wrongdoing (Article 22a) and by protecting staff
who report such cases (Article 22b).
The Commission does not tolerate harassment, in line
The ‘whistleblowing’ procedure
with Article 12a of the Staff Regulations. In the work
environment, the Staff Regulations distinguish between
You are obliged to report facts pointing to a possible two particular types of harassment – psychological and
illegal activity, including fraud or corruption, or to a sexual – and the Commission has a specific policy to
serious failure to comply with the professional obliga-
deal with such cases (Decision (C(2006)1624/3/final).
tions of Commission staff. This obligation only applies
to facts discovered in the course of or in connection Psychological harassment
with your professional duties.
Psychological harassment covers all forms of sustained,
If you become aware of any serious wrongdoing, you intentional, abusive behaviour, whether this is repeti-
should report it in writing and without delay to either tive or systematic conduct, words, acts, gestures or writing
your Head of Unit, your Director-General or the Sec-
which may undermine the personality, dignity or physical
retary-General of the Commission, or to the European or psychological well-being of a person. It comes in many
Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) directly.
different guises: bullying, antagonism, pressure, offensive
behaviour, even refusal to communicate - all examples of
Whoever receives this information is required to trans-
unacceptable behaviour which may, in isolation, appear of
mit it without delay to OLAF.
little consequence. When occurring on a regular basis, how-
ever, these kinds of behaviour can cause serious harm to
When such information is received from a whistleblow-
the person towards whom they are directed.
er, OLAF or the Commission must:
inform the whistleblower within 60 days of how
much time is needed to take appropriate action; and
Sexual harassment means unwanted conduct of a sex-
take appropriate action within the period of time ual nature, or other conduct based on sex, affecting the
dignity of men and women at work. This can include
If no appropriate action is taken within that time, the any unwelcome verbal, non-verbal or physical behav-
member of staff may turn to another EU institution – the iour. The essential characteristic is that it is unwanted
President of either the Council, the European Parliament, by the recipient.
the Court of Auditors, or the European Ombudsman. Giv-
en the duties of discretion and loyalty, this should be an Commission policy
option of last resort, justifiable only if the staff member
concerned honestly and reasonably believes that the in-
In the framework of the policy put in place by the Commis-
formation disclosed, and any allegation contained in it, sion, two procedures have been established for dealing with
are substantially true and he or she allowed the Com-
potential harassment situations, a formal and an informal
mission or OLAF a reasonable period of time to take ap-
one. As a first step, staff members are strongly advised to
propriate action. If such an external disclosure is neces-
resolve the problem through conciliation via the “informal
sary, it is advisable to let the facts speak for themselves. procedure” which provides support and someone to speak
to in strict confidentiality (Confidential Counsellor or Media-
Any whistleblower who complies with these conditions tor). If necessary, emergency measures can be taken (such
will be protected from adverse consequences. This cov-
as a quick transfer in the interest of the service). The in-
ers the identity of the whistleblower, as well as the mo-
formal procedure provides follow-up and may lead to an
bility and staff report of the person concerned. Natural-
amicable resolution of the conflict, but it does not involve
ly, in order for the Commission to be able to apply such any formal qualification of the case or sanctions. In con-
protective measures, the person concerned will need to trast the formal procedure – under Article 24 of the Staff
identify themselves to the Institution, and observe the Regulations - aims to determine whether the allegations of
harassment can be proven, assessing the facts and, when
appropriate, applying sanctions in the framework of the dis-
Confidential and impartial guidance to potential ciplinary procedure. These two procedures are detailed in
whistleblowers will be given by the Ethics Correspond-
the Decision adopted by the Commission.
ents in each DG.
Commission Decision on the European Commission
Communication from Vice-President Šefčovič to
policy on protecting the dignity of the person and
the Commission on Guidelines on Whistleblowing –
preventing psychological harassment and sexual
harassment – C(2006)1624/3
and disciplinary procedures
The disciplinary system, which essentially involves ad-
ministrative inquiries and disciplinary procedures, ap-
plies to any failure by a staff member or former staff
member to comply with his or her obligations under
the Staff Regulations, whether intentionally or through
negligence. As explained in the preceding chapters, this
can include conduct in private life, such as offences un-
der national criminal law.
The primary tasks of the Commission’s Investigation
and Disciplinary Office (IDOC) are:
The impartial and independent conduct of ad-
ministrative inquiries, the aim of which is to col-
lect facts and to verify whether any obligation
as laid down in the Staff Regulations may have
The conduct of disciplinary procedures. Discipli-
nary procedures are opened once there is evi-
dence that any obligation contained in the Staff
Regulations may have been breached.
There is a clear procedural and operational separation
between, on the one hand, administrative inquiries and,
on the other hand, disciplinary procedures. The first
phase is necessary only if the facts have not been es-
Examples of cases where inquiries/disciplinary pro-
cedures have been conducted include: breaches of fi-
nancial rules (such as public procurement), conflicts of
interests (favouritism), corruption, allegations of psy-
chological or sexual harassment, convictions in a crimi-
nal case, theft of Commission material, committing
fraud and falsifying documents, abuse of IT-equipment,
and improper behaviour.
It should be noted that administrative inquiries can be
carried out by either the European Anti-Fraud Office
(OLAF) or IDOC, depending on the nature of the case.
Cases involving fraud and other serious financial irreg-
ularities are usually dealt with by OLAF (which can lead
to criminal proceedings before national courts).
General implementing provisions on the conduct of
administrative inquires and disciplinary procedures
For IDOC Annual Activity Reports see:
List of main reference documents regarding ethics by domain
1. Staff Regulations
2. Communication from VP Kallas to the Commission on enhancing the environment for professional
ethics – SEC(2008)301
3. Public service principles for the EU civil service – European Ombudsman 2012
4. Code of Good Administrative Behaviour – 2000/633/CE
5. General guidelines for ‘Staff as Ambassadors’ – SEC(2007)912/9
6. Social Media Guidelines for all staff – Administrative Notice n° 34/2011
7. Communication from Vice-President Šefčovič to the Commission on Guidelines on Gifts and
Hospitality for staff members – SEC(2012)167
8. Commission decision on outside activities and assignments – C(2004)1597
9. Practical guidance for staff wishing to engage in volunteer activities – Administrative Information
9. Communication from the President on Commission policy on the internal use of email – SEC(2009)1412
10. Acceptable use of the Commission’s ICT services – Administrative Notice n° 45/2006
Use of ICT services
11. Guidelines for applying article 22 of the Staff Regulations (financial liability of officials) –
12. Commission decision on the European Commission policy on protecting the dignity of the
person and preventing psychological harassment and sexual harassment – C(2006)1624/3
13. Communication from VP Kinnock to the Commission on how to enhance effective application
of Whistleblowing rules and protection of Whistleblowers – SEC(2004)151/2
List of main reference documents regarding ethics by domain
14. Financial regulation – Art 57
15. Mission guide – point 6: Expenses paid by organisers
Conflict of interests
General implementing provisions on the conduct of administrative inquires and disciplinary
procedures – C(2004)1588
Directorate General Human Resources and Security
Unit ‘Ethics, Rights and Obligations’