1st Edition

Public Ethics at the European Commission Politics, Reform and Individual Views

By Andreea Nastase Copyright 2017
    162 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    172 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Since the early 2000s, reforms in the area of public ethics have represented a significant part in the European Commission's efforts to improve its internal governance and democratic legitimacy, and address the crisis of public confidence in European integration.

    This book comprises a study of ethics and public integrity issues in the administrative services of the European Commission. The author traces the reforms implemented in this area since the early 2000s, and asks whether and how they have shaped Commission officials’ thinking about appropriate behaviour in public office. Based on in-depth interviews and the use of vignettes, the book reveals that the influence of ethics regulations is subtle and full of contradictions: while a heightened awareness and discussion of ethical issues exists in the Commission nowadays, the topic is nonetheless often considered as a matter of "common sense". This book breaks new ground as the first analysis of ethics at the level of individual EU officials. It advances a new angle to the study of the Commission as an administrative actor, and sheds light on an important but under-researched component of its efforts to address criticism concerning democratic legitimacy. In the field of administrative ethics, the book tackles research gaps regarding the practice and impact of ethics policies within public organizations.

    This text will be of key interest to scholars, students and practitioners of EU Studies/Politics, institutional reform, administrative ethics, and more broadly European governance and public policy.


    Ethics management and corruption world-wide

    Central concepts, limitations and some finer points

    The analytical contribution of this book

    The European Commission as a case study in ethics management

    Research approach

    Plan of the book


    1. Public Ethics, Socialization and the Organizational Profile of the European Commission

    1.1. A conceptual framework for addressing public ethics

    1.1.1. Ethical dilemmas and views towards public ethics

    1.1.2. Ethics management in public organizations

    1.2. Organizational socialization: learning ethics on the job

    1.2.1. Formal and informal learning sources

    1.2.2. Socialization as acquiring role knowledge

    1.3. The officials of the European Commission and their organizational socialization

    1.3.1. Choosing a significant group of officials

    1.3.2. Characteristics of the sample

    1.3.3. Gaining access and recruiting participants

    1.4. Conclusion


    2. Change, Continuity and the Politics of Ethics Reforms 

    2.1. The compliance-integrity continuum

    2.2. The development of ethics management in the European Commission services

    2.2.1. The Kinnock reforms: a rule-based ethics system

    2.2.2. The Kallas package: moving to a trust-based ethics system

    2.2.3. The Kallas package after 2010

    2.3. The Ethics Communication and the delivery of change

    2.3.1. Public scrutiny and ethics scandals

    2.3.2. Ethics as a political liability

    2.4. Conclusion


    3. "You are the Human Face of the Commission": Ethics Translated in Internal Administrative Practice

    3.1. Ethics in internal communication: rules and the public image of the European Commission

    3.2. Ethics "hot spots" in the European Commission

    3.2.1. Types of ethical dilemmas

    3.2.2. Type 1 issues: conflict of interests, outside activities and the limits of individual freedom of expression

    3.2.3. Type 2 issues: whistleblowing

    3.2.4. Type 3 issues: exchanges with private interests

    3.3. Conclusion


    4. Individual Views towards Ethics in the European Commission 

    4.1. Methodological observations

    4.1.1. General observations on the vignette technique

    4.1.2. The use of vignettes in this research project

    4.2. Individual positions on public ethics

    4.2.1. Vignette 1: The organization and the individual

    4.2.2. Vignette 2: Officials within the organization

    4.2.3. Vignette 3: The official, the organization, and external actors

    4.3. Ethics on the work-floor: commonalities, divergence, and determinants

    4.3.1. Commonalities and divergence

    4.3.2. Exploring the divergence Nationality Organizational position

    4.4. Conclusion


    5. Discussing "Common Sense" – How Ethics Management Shapes Individual Views to Ethics

    5.1. Official communication and views from the work-floor

    5.2. Ethics as "common sense"

    5.3. Discussing about ethics

    5.4. Conclusion



    Summary of findings

    The limits of ethics management

    The European Commission after ethics reforms


    Final remarks


    Andreea Nastase is Assistant Professor in European Public Policy at Maastricht University, the Netherlands. She holds a PhD from the Central European University, Budapest.