EU Parliamentary questions

Question for written answer to the Commission - Rule 117

Antigoni Papadopoulou (S&D)

Subject: Appointment of former Commissioner Verheugen as adviser to the Union of Turkish Chambers of Commerc

As has already been reported, Günter Verheugen, the former Commissioner for Enlargement (1999 2004) and Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry (2004 09) was recently given leave to take up the posts, inter alia, of adviser to the Union of Turkish Chambers of Commerce.

Given the reaction in the EU to Turkey's accession bid owing to its refusal fully to comply with and implement the Community acquis in many cases (for instance the implementation of the Additional Protocol to the Ankara agreement, the violation of religious and civil freedoms, etc.), the decision by Mr Barroso, President of the Commission, to give permission to Mr Verheugen to take up this particular post raises a number of issues which must be addressed — particularly since Mr Verheugen failed in the past to observe the impartiality demanded by his office. In fact, he publicly voiced pro-Turkish views and expressed his staunch support for the Annan plan which was rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Cypriot Greek population. Since, as the saying goes, ‘Caesar's wife must be above suspicion', will the Commission answer the following necessary questions:

1. On the basis of which code of professional and ethical conduct did Mr Barroso decide to give leave to Mr Verheugen to assume the duties of adviser to the Union of Turkish Chambers of Commerce?

2. Does it not consider it provocative and a source of potential conflict of interest that a former Commissioner for Enlargement should have been appointed to a post in a candidate country, such as Turkey — which is occupying northern Cyprus — so rapidly and at such a critical juncture, since Turkey's bid for accession is currently being evaluated in the light of its failure to meet its commitments vis-à-vis the EU?


Answer given by Mr Barroso on behalf of the Commission

The Code of Conduct for Commissioners, approved by the Commission at its meeting held on 24 November 2004, states that ‘whenever Commissioners intend to engage in an occupation during the year after they have ceased to hold office, whether this be at the end of their term or upon resignation, they shall inform the Commission in good time. The Commission shall examine the nature of the planned occupation. If it is related to the content of the portfolio of the Commissioner during his/her full term of office, the Commission shall seek the opinion of an ad hoc ethical committee. In the light of the committee's findings it will decide whether the planned occupation is compatible with the last paragraph of Article 213(2) of the Treaty'.

On 29 April 2010, Mr Verheugen informed the Commission about his intention to accept an assignment as an advisor to the President of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB), to advise on international and bilateral Turkish German business relations. The Commission consulted the Ad hoc Ethical Committee on the compatibility of this envisaged assignment with the Code of Conduct for Commissioners.

On the basis of additional information provided by Mr Verheugen, the Ad hoc Ethical Committee concluded on 28 June 2010 that Mr Verheugen's envisaged occupation with TOBB does not conflict with the Code of Conduct for Commissioners. By its decision of 6 July 2010, the Commission confirmed that this occupation is in conformity with Article 245(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The Commission valued in particular the fact that Mr Verheugen's post-office activities are not in the remit of his latest portfolio and his explicit assurance that they will exclude any type of lobby or direct involvement in business activities.


Subject: Verification of the fate of missing persons in Cyprus

More than 600 missing persons are at risk of remaining missing forever and not being identified according to the Parliamentary Committee on Refugees of the House of Representatives of Cyprus. Turkey, and the Turkish army in particular, are in possession of information concerning the fate of the missing persons. Unfortunately, however, Turkey has so far failed to engage effectively in the verification of their fate. Pursuant to a judgment delivered by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the context of the 4th Intergovernmental Application, Turkey should give such information to the missing persons' relatives, who are justifiably asking for information on the circumstances in which their relatives died. Since 2007, the remains of 209 Greek Cypriot and 54 Turkish Cypriot missing persons have been scientifically identified by the Committee on Missing Persons. 1 473 Greek Cypriots and a number of Turkish Cypriots are still missing. The process of exhumation and identification is time-consuming and will take another 15 to 20 years to complete.

Will the Commission, therefore, say: — what it proposes in order to verify as soon as possible the fate of those missing in the tragedy of Cyprus, and
— what measures it will take to exert pressure on Turkey, a candidate country for accession, to comply fully with the ECHR judgment and implement it in the context of the 4th Intergovernmental Application by providing the necessary information concerning the missing persons?

Answer in stand-by

EU Parliamentary questions