HomeBusinessEuropean Ombudsman Requests Review of Commission's Third-Party Paid Trips

European Ombudsman Requests Review of Commission’s Third-Party Paid Trips

European Ombudsman Requests Review of Commission’s Third-Party Paid Trips

The European Ombudsman has requested that the European Commission disclose details about business trips made by senior officials since 2021 that were funded by third parties. The request comes following a corruption scandal that has arisen concerning the Eurochamber. The Commission’s Director General for Transport, Henrik Hololei, was recently revealed to have travelled on several occasions at the expense of the Qatari government or organisations close to him between 2015 and 2021, while his department was negotiating an air transport agreement between the EU and Qatar. The current controversy has led to concerns of undue influence on EU decision-making. The Ombudsman has demanded clarification from the Commission regarding the rules it applies to determine that there is no conflict of interest when travel expenses are paid for by third parties. Only about 1.5% of missions carried out abroad by Commission staff involve contributions from third parties; the figure drops to 0.1-0.2% in the case of CEOs. In response, the Commission has stated that it reviews its rules for missions abroad with the aim of tightening them, and is considering restricting the number of entities that can participate in financing the trips of senior Commission officials to just three – the UN, the G7, and the G20.

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The bribery scheme allegedly involving several current and former officials of the European Parliament and which has been linked to Qatar and Morocco has brought to attention the Commission’s guidelines on travel abroad. Both countries have denied the accusations. The scandal has increased scrutiny over “the role of third parties and how they try to influence public officials in the EU”, according to the Ombudsman. He has emphasized the need for high ethical standards and transparency in the interactions between EU officials and representatives of interests. The Ombudsman added that while missions abroad may be necessary to promote the interests of the EU, it is crucial to manage the risks of conflicts of interest, whether real, potential or perceived.

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