May 30 2012
European Ombudsman Highlights ‘Lack of Transparency’
Nikiforos Diamandouros, the European Union (EU) Ombudsman – whose role is to investigate maladministration in EU institutions and agencies – has presented his annual report for 2011 in Brussels.
Once again ‘…the lack of transparency’ has come top of the list of complaints from European citizens.
Similarly the European Commission maintains its position as the main ‘whipping boy’ and is the target of more than half of the complaints raised by individuals and organisations.
There were 2,510 complaints registered with the ombudsman, although only 698 were within his mandate. It was slightly fewer than in 2010, when 2,667 complaints were made, of which 744 fell under the ombudsman’s remit. Somewhat surprisingly the UK dis not top the poll of complainers. Spain overtook Germany as the source of most complaints, while the greatest proportion relative to population size came from Luxembourg and Cyprus.
A lack of transparency in the EU administration – including the refusal to release documents and information – was again the most common reason for complaints. Problems with the execution of EU contracts or calls for tender were also raised.
In most cases Mr Diamandouros responded by opening an inquiry, transferring the case to the competent body – such as national ombudsmen or the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions – or giving advice to the complainant. Eighty-two per cent of complaints were made by individuals and 18 per cent by companies, associations, and other organisations.
Whereas 58 per cent of complains related to the European Commission only 4 per cent were made against the European Parliament.
As well as helping thousands of European citizens to find solutions to their individual problems, the Ombudsman’s inquiries also benefit citizens more generally by contributing to the improvement of the quality and responsiveness of the EU administration and by clarifying what the administration is doing and why.
The inquiries into radiation levels in imported food after the Fukushima disaster, into potential conflicts of interest in EU institutions, and into the range of languages used in public consultations were the top three areas for complaint.
The European Ombudsman can be seen as real value for money as he helped more than 22,000 European individuals, companies, non-governmental organisations and associations over the course of the year. An online interactive guide was used by 18,000 citizens to seek advice on who they should turn to address their problems. You can source that guide here:
and I would encourage everyone to have a look and to register their complaint should it be covered by European Union remit.