The European Commission has formalised its commitment, first pledged in September 2017, to make public the travel expenses of the Commissioners: on 31 January 2018 the new Code of Conduct for the Members of the European Commission was published and it confirms that mission expenses will be published every two months.
This commitment in the new Code of Conduct comes exactly one year since, on 27 January 2017, Access Info Europe launched a public campaign calling for publication of the Commissioners’ travel expenses. The campaign attracted media coverage, over both the lack of transparency and – based on some of the data obtained – issues such as the use of private air taxis by some Commissioners.
Access Info today expressed cautious welcome the new Code of Conduct, which states that expenses will be published each two months, and the accompanying press release that promises publication as of February 2018, noting that that the precise level of detail in the future publication of the travel costs is still not known.
“This is an important step for the public’s right to know, but the devil is in the detail,” commented Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of
“The provision refers to publication of an ‘overview’, so we will need to see whether the publication of the travel expenses will be sufficient
for public scrutiny,” added Darbishire.
Access Info noted that the new Code also contains a possible exception on grounds such as public security, defence, and international relations, which are standard exceptions so long as not overly broadly applied.
The new Code of Conduct, includes transparency of the travel expenses in an article on “the principle of integrity”, which also prohibits use of free travel unless authorised by the President.A further provision limits use of air taxis unless both justified and authorised; air taxis were not mentioned in the previous, 2011, code.
This announcement comes in parallel to the ongoing investigation by the European Ombudsman after Access Info, along with 53 EU citizens which had taken part in January’s online request campaign, filed a complaint raising concerns about the way access to documents requests were handled, including the refusal by the Commission to register them in spite of its legal obligation to do so.