SEAP Code of Conduct – a necessary revision

Rules

On 29 May 2024, SEAP hosted an event titled “Professional and Ethical Standards for Public Affairs Professionals”. The event brought together representatives from various sectors, with panellists including Pauline Bertrand, Policy Analyst at OECD; Alvaro de Elera, Member of Cabinet for EU Commission Vice-President Věra Jourová; Carl Dolan, Senior Advisor to the EU Ombudsman; and Dieter Zinnbauer, Advisor at The Good Lobby.

SEAP Code of Conduct

In his opening speech, SEAP President Paul Varakas explained that the aim of the event was to discuss the necessary updates to the SEAP Code of Conduct. Originally established in 1997 and revised multiple times since, the Code has served as a fundamental regulatory tool for the European affairs profession. Given the evolving regulatory framework and professional landscape, SEAP recognised the need for further adaptation to maintain the Code’s relevance and effectiveness.

OECD Recommendation

As an introduction to the panel discussion, Pauline Bertrand presented the various activities of the OECD on this topic and the recently adopted recommendation on “Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying and Influence“. Moderated by Paul Varakas, the following discussion focused on the requirements for a modern and robust Code of Conduct to address current challenges.

Key topics included the growing role of artificial intelligence in public affairs, the implications of revolving door practices, and the necessity of a credible enforcement mechanism. Varakas emphasised that the discussions aimed to reflect on the past achievements of the SEAP Code while recognising the urgent need to enhance its provisions to better regulate ethical standards in today’s environment.

Enforcement: a Key Issue

The panellists provided valuable insights into best practices from other codes of conduct and shared their perspectives on strengthening SEAP’s regulatory framework. The importance of enforcement was a key issue, with particular focus on the need for independent oversight to ensure impartial assessment and sanctioning of unethical behaviour.

The event also provided a platform for SEAP members to contribute their experiences and expectations. In conclusion, the discussion marked a significant step towards modernising SEAP’s Code of Conduct. The following internal work is to be completed by the next Annual General Assembly on 26 September 2024.