The EESC continues to deliver on its commitment to a policy of zero tolerance for harassment, finding fair agreements with victims and renewing apologies to victims previously identified by OLAF.
From the beginning of my presidency in October 2020, I pledged to establish a policy of zero tolerance for harassment. Several important steps have been taken by the EESC's new leadership and administration since then to live up to this commitment.
Already in January 2021, the EESC adopted a new Code of Conduct, establishing stronger sanctions for non-compliance up to and including the expulsion of a member in the case of severe misconduct.
In March 2022, the EESC adopted revised Rules of Procedure fully incorporating key provisions of the new Code of Conduct.
This work has been done against the backdrop of external findings and advice that recognise that there have been gaps in the past. In my capacity as President, I have listened carefully to each victim previously identified by OLAF who had experienced harassment or serious misconduct. The EESC's services have followed up those exchanges by finding fair agreements and determining appropriate compensation. Agreements have been found in all these cases, with the last one being formalised at the beginning of April. However, I am very well aware of the true suffering caused by these wrongdoings and so I renew my sincere apologies to all those concerned.
Prevention of future cases of harassment is our number one priority. As well as strictly implementing the new rules, we have improved and intensified the ethics training for EESC members.
In parallel, the EESC administration has worked on further strengthening the ethical framework for staff, in close cooperation with staff representatives. More support and training for ethics counsellors is being provided, the network of confidential counsellors has been renewed and mandatory training on ethics for all EESC staff and managers has been implemented.
New decisions have been adopted to prevent and deal with psychological and sexual harassment at work and on whistleblowing to provide greater protection and more transparency. Close cooperation with the European Commission's Investigative and Disciplinary Office has been put in place to strengthen and professionalise our capacity in dealing with possible cases of conflict.
Our clear aim is to be among the most advanced EU institutions when it comes to preventing harassment and handling possible cases of misbehaviour.
The EESC remains strongly committed to high ethical standards, ensuring respect and dignity at the workplace and will continue its efforts to live up to this commitment.