European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has written to the president of the European Commission concerning a video clip she featured in endorsing the election campaign of a Croatian political party.
Hrvatska Demokratska Zajednica (HDZ) is affiliated to the European Peoples’ Party (EPP), which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also belongs to. However, it is unclear if commissioners are allowed to be politically active under their Code of Conduct.
O’Reilly wrote that she was contacted by two civil society organizations — GONG and the Good Lobby — to complain about the participation of Von der Leyen and the Croatian Vice-President Suica in the video clip.
— HDZ (@HDZ_HR) July 3, 2020
The Commission’s Chief Spokesperson Eric Mamer acknowledged to journalists (6 July) that mistakes were made and would not be made again, but there was no apology. Mamer said that the video had been done in a personal capacity, despite taking place in the Commission’s Berlaymont building, using the Commission’s video facilities.
O’Reilly said that it was understandable that the public were concerned that members of the Commission could be involved in political campaigns, bearing in mind the legal, executive and regulatory nature of their roles.
O’Reilly said that complainants had raised legitimate concerns and that she considered it important that the Commission clarified these issues. O’Reilly will also be raising this issue with the Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control. She has requested a response within the next three months with measures the Commission has taken.