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Saturday, July 17, 1999 Published at 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK

World: Europe

EU Commission cleans up its act

Romano Prodi and Chris Patten outside the castle where they are meeting

The new European Commission has promised to fight sleaze with tight new restrictions on how its members live and behave.

The commissoners have been holding their first meeting since replacing the previous team, who resigned en masse after an investigation uncovered mismanagement, nepotism and fraud.

EU in crisis
After the meeting at a castle near Antwerp in Belgium, Commission President Romano Prodi said they had agreed a code of conduct requiring commissioners to act in line with the highest standards of public life.

He said the gathering had "created a good team spirit" and the watchwords for his new administration would be "teamwork, transparency, efficiency and accountability".

Strict new measures

The unprecedented code, which was drawn up by Commissioner Neil Kinnock, stipulates that:

  • Commissioners cannot accept payment for delivering speeches or taking part in conferences.
  • If they publish books, royalties must go to charity.
  • When they leave office they face a one-year "cooling off" period before accepting lucrative posts in the private sector.
  • Any jobs they do apply for will be scrutinised by a special committee to ensure they are not being bought up to take advantage of privileged inside information.

The code also tackles the gravy train image of the Brussels bureaucracy, introducing numerous restrictions on spending.

  • Commissioners must declare any financial interests, including the professional activities of their spouses
  • The use of their chauffeur-driven cars is being curbed.
  • Flights on Concorde will require direct approval from Mr Prodi
  • The use of costly air taxis for routine journeys between Brussels and major European cities is banned except in exceptional circumstances

The new team of 20 commissioners has yet to be approved by the European parliament.

Only four of the old regime, including Mr Kinnock, have survived to serve another term.

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