Commission tightens conflict of interest rules
(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission tightened the code of conduct for top officials on Wednesday in the wake of conflict-of-interest scandals, but anti-corruption groups say the measures do not go far enough.
The new code bars European Union commissioners from hiring their spouses, partners or direct family members in their cabinets, and sets what the commission called "clearer" rules for accepting gifts and invitations.
After leaving office, a former commissioner must keep the EU's executive arm informed about job offers for 18 months, up from the current 12-month period.
The revamp follows several revolving-door scandals last year when former commissioners took up lucrative jobs in the private sector.
Former internal markets commissioner Charlie McCreevy of Ireland was forced to quit working for a British bank under pressure from the European Commission. although the EU executive let him join Irish budget airline Ryanair.
Other commissioners were allowed to take positions at large banks, such as Germany's Guenter Verheugen, who came under fire during his time as industry commissioner for hiring his partner as cabinet chief.
When he was trade commissioner, Britain's Peter Mandelson was forced to deny giving any favours to a Russia oligarch after being invited on his yacht. Accepting such invitations is now forbidden under the new rules.
Erike Wesselius, of the anti-corruption group Alter-EU, said the new code was "overall disappointing," adding that the job notification period should last three years, not 18 months.
The EU pays ex-commissioners between 40 and 65 percent of their old salaries, which start at 20,300 euros (27,000 dollars) per month, to ease back into private life for three years after they leave office.
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