11 March 2020
1370th meeting, 11 March 2020
2 Democracy and political questions
2.4 European Committee on Democracy and Governance (CDDG)
b. Guidelines on public ethics
Guidelines of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on public ethics
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 11 March 2020,
at the 1370th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers,
Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage;
Considering that public ethics are a fundamental element of a properly functioning and effective democracy, which is an objective that is common to all Council of Europe member States;
Considering that the strengthening of public ethics is an effective means of building and restoring citizens’ trust in public institutions;
Considering that the requirements and expectations of citizens in relation to public ethics are legitimate, more pronounced than in the past and relevant to all officials holding public responsibilities, including members of both the executive and national parliaments, holders of a judicial office, local and regional elected representatives and public officials at national, regional and local levels;
Considering that the integrity, legality, objectivity, transparency, honesty, leadership and accountability of persons exercising public responsibilities, as well as their compliance with the law and legal standards in their own behaviour, are decisive in guaranteeing good governance and the respect for the rule of law;
Having regard to the need to complement Recommendation No. R (2000) 10 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on codes of conduct for public officials and considering that the developments that have occurred since its adoption justify these guidelines, which cover a wider personal and material scope;
Having regard to:
Considering the activities of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe relating to integrity and corruption, including:
Considering also the activities of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe in relation to safeguarding integrity, tackling conflicts of interest
Considering the work carried out by the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), namely its report “Corruption prevention – Members of Parliament, Judges and Prosecutors (fourth evaluation round) – Conclusions and trends” (2017), as well as its findings and recommendations relating to the fifth evaluation round “Preventing corruption and promoting integrity in central governments (top executive functions) and law enforcement agencies”;
Considering also the work of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), including the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR “Joint Guidelines for preventing and responding to the misuse of administrative resources during electoral processes” (CDL-AD(2016)004) and the Venice Commission “Code of Good Practice in the field of Political Parties” (CDL-AD(2009)002);
Having regard to texts adopted by Council of Europe organs and bodies which, although not specifically related to public ethics, include provisions and recommendations relating to the conduct of public officials, including:
- Recommendation CM/Rec(2019)1 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on preventing and combating sexism and the guidelines appended to it;
- Recommendation CM/Rec(2019)3 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on supervision of local authorities’ activities;
- Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 2275 (2019) on the role and responsibilities of political leaders in combating hate speech and intolerance;
- ECRI General Policy Recommendation No. 15 on combating hate speech;
Taking note of the reports by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe entitled “State of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Europe”;
Taking note also of the recommendation of the Council on Public Integrity of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, adopted in 2017, which refers to public integrity as the consistent alignment of, and adherence to, shared ethical values, principles and norms for upholding and prioritising the public interest over private interests in the public sector,
Adopts the following guidelines, inviting member States to make the widest possible use of them, and to ensure their translation into the official languages and dissemination to public organisations in their respective countries, and/or to entrust these tasks to the competent public authorities, in compliance with the applicable constitutional and other legislative provisions.
b. “Public official” includes:
d. A“conflict of interest” is a situation in which the public official has a private interest, which is such as to influence, or appear to influence, the impartial and objective performance of their duties. The public official's private interests include any actual, potential or perceived advantage to themselves, or to any connected persons, including advantages arising from assets, income and liabilities whether financial or civil. Connected persons include a spouse or civil partner, any other person with whom the public official lives in a family relationship – children, step-children or parents – as well as friends and persons or organisations and institutions with whom they have or have had business, political or social connections.
a. Legality – Public officials must act and take decisions in accordance with the law.
b. Integrity – Public officials must put the obligations of public service above private interests when carrying out their mandates or functions.
c. Objectivity – Public officials must, in carrying out their mandates or functions, act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
d. Accountability – Public officials are, in carrying out their mandates or functions, accountable for their actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary for this.
e. Transparency – Public officials should, in carrying out their mandates or functions, act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner, ensure access to information and facilitate understanding of how public affairs are conducted.
f. Honesty – Public officials should be truthful.
g. Respect – Public officials should behave with courtesy and consideration toward others.
h. Leadership – Public officials should demonstrate the principles of public ethics in their own behaviour, while supporting and promoting those principles, and challenging poor ethical behaviour.
1. Founded on the principles of public ethics, a public ethics framework should provide standards and obligations for public officials and public organisations. These standards and obligations should cover the following areas:
i. avoid any situation where there could be a conflict of interest for them, and remove themselves immediately from any potentially problematic situation, while complying with relevant rules for handling conflicts of interest including rules of disclosure;
ii. refrain from using public resources for private purposes or in any other way which is contrary to the law;
iii. not accept for themselves, or any connected persons, gifts, invitations and hospitality, advantages and favours, donations and other benefits, which might, or might reasonably be perceived to, place them under an improper obligation; not demand or solicit for themselves or any connected person gifts and benefits;
iv. make all declarations in compliance with the relevant rules of their assets, income, liabilities and other interests, and those of connected persons;
v. avoid participation in any prohibited outside activities during their period of employment or mandate, and after that period in compliance with relevant rules, avoiding activities through which they would gain a personal or professional advantage due to their having been a public official;
vi. avoid any perception of prejudice or favouritism, including nepotism;
vii. avoid discrimination, refrain from hate speech, harassment or bullying, show respect for equality and diversity and work actively towards a culture of fairness and tolerance that appreciates diversity;
viii. avoid producing or using information and evidence in a misleading or inaccurate manner;
b. In the performance of their duties, public officials who are members of national governments or members of government of regions with legislative powers should:
c. In the performance of their duties, public officials who are members of national parliaments or members of regional assemblies with legislative powers, should:
Legislation and regulations
d. requirements in relation to public officials who are elected, namely:
ii. the exercise of their mandate;
Codes of conduct