With the financial crisis, “conflict of interest” has become a buzzword. Not a day passes without the press uncovering another case of unethical behaviour from holders of public office. The introduction of new ethical rules and standards has become a political topic.
But what is exactly a conflict of interest? Its definition is not simple and different possibilities have been proposed.
There are different approaches to tackling conflicts of interest. International organisations provide general guidance which is applied by many international and national bodies as the basis for their own specific codes. However, regimes differ amongst EU Member States. And in most Member States individual institutions have their own rules and standards. The types of measures applied also differ amongst EU Member States and in comparison with other parts of the world.
It is strongly disputed that more rules and higher standards lead to a reduction in unethical behaviour and to greater public trust.
Most EU institutions are regulated more strictly than equivalent institutions at national level. However, each institution has its own codes and the level of regulation and enforcement varies amongst them.