On Tuesday, Petitions MEPs approved the 2019 annual report on the European Ombudsman’s activities.
The draft text, adopted in the Committee on Petitions with 27 votes in favour, none against and 7 abstentions, commends the European Ombudsman work in 2019 and its good cooperation with PETI. The Committee endorses the continued effort to ensure the “EU delivers the highest standards of administration, transparency and ethics” and guarantee its accessibility and quality for citizens.
Transparency and access to documents
The Petitions Committee reiterates its support on the European Ombudsman’s special report on transparency in the Council and welcome the ambition to uphold the highest possible standards of transparency and ethics, especially during a health crisis.
MEPs repeat their call on Council to implement the Ombudsman’s recommendations keeping in mind that as co-legislator it must guarantee the highest level of transparency and accessibility of documents. They also urge the Council to approve the revised Statute of the European Ombudsman, which would improve the efficiency of the Office.
Ethics in EU institutions
MEPs praise the Ombudsman’s successful work on revolving doors inquiries in EU institutions, which led for example the EBA to update its staff policy on post-employment and the European Commission to introduce a specific appointment procedure for its Secretary-General.
In view of promoting the highest ethical standards throughout the EU institutions, MEPs also call for the independent evaluation of declarations of interest of Commissioners-designate and the revision of the current rules in order to strengthen integrity requirements for Commissioners during and after their mandate.
Nomination of the Ombudsman
As the institution responsible for electing the European Ombudsman, MEPs call on the Parliament to “overhaul the nomination process” that takes place at the start of each term. They call for a more “informed, uniform, transparent and orderly” procedure, as well as a more detailed description of time limits for collection of signatures and campaigns.
Active involvement of citizens
MEPs welcome the Ombudsman’s commitment to involve citizens in the EU democratic process and its decision to reply to requests in the language of the received complaint. They endorse the draft guidelines on the use of languages on EU institutions’ websites and call on EU administration to allow citizens to communicate in all 24 official EU languages and in national sign language.
The draft report highlights the improvements of the online communication services of the EU Ombudsman’s office, including the redesign of its website. Better understanding of its work will increase participation by civil society, believe MEPs.
The annual report on the activities of the EU Ombudsman provides a general overview of the main activities of the Office throughout the year. The 2019 report was the final report of the first term of Emily O’Reilly, re-elected by the European Parliament in the same year. Last autumn, the Office of the European Ombudsman celebrated its 25 anniversary. The rapporteur Sylvie Guillaume (S&D, FR) said: “With 2201 complaints handled, 458 inquiries of which two own-initiative ones opened, 552 inquiries and 8 own-initiative investigations closed, 2019 was a year of intense work for the European Ombudsman. Our report congratulates her and encourages her commitment to greater transparency and respect of high ethical standards within the EU institutions. The report also takes the opportunity to aim for ambitious objectives in the context of the discussions on the Statute of the European Ombudsman”.