The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is making sure it has more effective tools to ensure strict adherence to ethical standards, non-discrimination, equal opportunities and dignity in the workplace, with sanctions for harassment of any kind.
At its plenary session on 20 February 2019, the EESC adopted (by 239 votes to 30, with 13 abstentions) a proposal by its Rules of Procedure Panel (rapporteur-general: Georges Dassis) to amend the Rules of Procedure it had adopted in 2010, to include a new version of the Code of Conduct for members as an appendix. The changes made in the new Rules of Procedure and Code of Conduct, which will enter into force on 15 March 2019, also take account of comments made by the European Parliament during the most recent discharge procedure, and of Parliament's own recently adopted Rules of Procedure, particularly in relation to preventing and combating all forms of harassment.
The EESC has – at the initiative of its president, Luca Jahier, and with the full support of the groups and the administration – affirmed the principle of the right to dignity in the workplace and established an internal monitoring mechanism for any harassment, whatever the form, concerning members, a mechanism which also lays down sanctions. An advisory committee will be set up to monitor compliance with the principles laid down in the Code of Conduct.
Members will be required to sign the Code of Conduct when they are appointed; it applies both to interactions between members and to their interactions with any other persons working in the Committee. Article 4 of the new Code states that "without prejudice to their freedom of expression, in the exercise of their duties members shall commit themselves to performing their tasks with dignity in the workplace. They shall refrain from any form of harassment and condemn this practice."
Article 8 lays down the procedure to be followed in cases where the Code of Conduct is breached, including a provision that "with the respect of the presumption of innocence and the protection of victims, where there is a reason to think that a member may have breached this Code of Conduct, the President shall inform the involved members in writing and immediately refer the matter to the Advisory Committee".
The possible sanctions include, depending on the severity of the member's behaviour, "temporary suspension from rapporteurship, chairmanship and membership of study groups, missions and extraordinary meetings".
The Committee's new Rules of Procedure state, in Rule 1.3a, that "the members of the Committee shall not be elected as office holders of one of the Committee's bodies, be appointed as rapporteur or participate in an official mission if they have not signed the declaration relating to that Code". The Committee also insists on "compliance with the principles of gender equality and non-discrimination [...]", and stresses the need to ensure "better than a proportional representation of women in all bodies of the Committee" (Rule 1.4).
The full text of the Rules of Procedure and the Code of Conduct will soon be available on the EESC website.