The European Commission said on Thursday it would draw up new guidelines for participation by its members in national election campaigns in response to complaints over Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's appearance in a Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) campaign video.
“The Commission will clarify the practical modalities for the participation of its Members in national election campaigns in guidelines,” Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said in a letter to European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly.
The HDZ in July 2020 published, a day before the country’s parliamentary election, a short video in which European People’s Party (EPP) leaders, including several member-states’ prime ministers, von der Leyen and Commission Vice President Dubravka Suica of the HDZ, made an appearance, each repeating in Croatian the HDZ’s election slogan “a safe Croatia”.
The nongovernmental organisations Gong and Good Lobby complained to O’Reilly over von der Leyen’s appearance in the video, asking her to check if this was in line with the Code of Conduct of EC members.
Sefcovic said in his letter to O’Reilly that von der Leyen was not aware that the video in question was a campaign video and that the use of EU resources in that case was a mistake. He noted, however, that she did not appear as EC President but as an EPP politician and that she did not violate the EC’s Code of Conduct.