European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly has assessed that the concerns over European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's statement in the run up to the Croatian elections "are well-founded," the GONG election monitoring NGO informed on Wednesday.
GONG sent a complaint to the European Commission and Ombudsman O'Reilly on July 5 after von der Leyen, in her capacity as Commission President, participated in a video promoting the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in the parliamentary election, claiming that she had potentially breached the Code of Conduct for EC members. In its complaint GONG warned that von der Leyen's participation in the video of a particular political party could be considered as inappropriate intervention in a national election as it would suggest that the EC supports a particular party in relation to other parties.
"Your concerns are well-founded," O'Reilly said in regard to GONG's complaint.
In her reply to GONG, O'Reilly notes that she had signalled the concerns to the Commission and to the appropriate body with the European Parliament to take the necessary measures.
"There can be confusion in the public mind about the respective roles and competences of the main EU institutions and I think that citizen trust can be strengthened through clarity in this regard," O'Reilly said in reference to whether members of the Commission can or should be involved in political campaigns.
Violation of the Commission's Code of Conduct, which GONG inquired about, raises the question of how the Code is monitored as the Commission President is obliged to implement the Code, GONG noted.
"It is unclear to whom the President would have to declare her intention to participate in a national election campaign.This suggests that there may be a need for a separate code of conduct for the President," GONG cited.
The complaint will also be forwarded to the European Parliament Budget Control Committee "given that the European Parliament was asked to give its opinion on the current version of the Code when it was drafted."
The Code of Conduct for the Members of the European Commission notes, "Members shall abstain from making public statements or interventions on behalf of any political party or organisation of the social partners of which they are members, except when standing for election/participating in an election campaign."