A vacation by former EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson on the superyacht of a Russian aluminium tycoon has forced a change in the Commission’s ethics rules. The European Commission yesterday unveiled a new code of conduct that prevents top officials from taking holidays on oligarchs’yachts or dictator’s private jets. It was revealed last week that France’s foreign minister and prime minister both accepted luxury trips from deposed Tunisian prime minister Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

But the 2008 vacation by Lord Mandelson in Corfu aboard Oleg Deripaska’s 238ft yacht prompted the changes. According to the new rules, commissioners may no longer “accept hospitality except when in accordance with diplomatic and courtesy usage.” The general interpretation is that the commissioners can only accept diplomatic assistance when on official business rather than holidays. They must also get pre-authorization for holidays with industry leaders or business moguls who are considered friends.

Lord Mandelson said he provided no favours to Deripaska while he was trade commissioner, despite the department making decisions that helped the Russian tycoon’s business. The department officials told the Daily Telegraph that they made the decisions in “an entirely standard manner.” But they also acknowledged that the new rules would “remove any appearance or perception of a conflict of interest.”