The campaign group The Good Lobby has lodged a complaint with the European Ombudsman against EU Commission President von der Leyen for alleged interference in national parliamentary elections in Croatia.
Were such allegations to be upheld, they would represent a full breach of the Code of Conduct of EU Commissioners.
Under the Code, EU Commissioners must abstain from making public statements or interventions on behalf of any political party – of which they are members unless they ask for expressed authorization to the President of the EU Commission .
The rationale for such a prohibition is to prevent conflict of interest between the EU Commissioner’s duty to enforce EU obligations vis-à-vis member states and their national political allegiances.
The EU Commission chief spokesmans has attempted to qualify von der Leyen’s political endorsement of the Croatian ruling party as a “personal opinion”.
In response, The Good Lobbby has issued a statement saying that such a qualification is moot:
"The video message was recorded and delivered from Ursula von der Leyen’ office in the Berlaymont building, by using her institutional title as well as the setting traditionally employed by the EU Commission President in her public addresses to EU citizens.
A spokesperson for The Good Lobby went on to say:
"This infelicitous and unprecedented episode unveils the structural limits of the recently reformed EU Commission oversight system designed to ensure the respect of the Code of Conduct of EU Commissioners.
The system is neither independent (its respect depends on the President’s exclusive will) nor autonomous (its Independent Ethical Committee can’t self-task) and does not foresee the possibility of a temporary suspension of the unethical action or omission not even when the damage is immediate and irreversible as in the present circumstances."
Von der Leyen’s Croatian move is set to contribute to building a case for the creation of an independent EU ethics body, what she originally promised when entering office in 2019.
Read the full text of the complaint here.