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Thursday, 27 October 2005 - Strasbourg
Activities of the European Ombudsman (2004)

European Parliament resolution on the annual report on the activities of the European Ombudsman for the year 2004 (2005/2136(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the annual report on the activities of the European Ombudsman for the year 2004,

–   having regard to Article 195 of the EC Treaty,

–   having regard to Article 43 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights,

–   having regard to its resolution of 17 November 1993 on democracy, transparency and subsidiarity and the Interinstitutional Agreement on procedures for implementing the principle of subsidiarity; the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the Ombudsman's duties; the arrangements for the proceedings of the Conciliation Committee under Article 189 b EC(1) ,

–   having regard to its previous resolutions on the activities of the European Ombudsman,

–   having regard to Rules 112(1) and 195(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Petitions (A6-0276/2005),

A.   whereas the Charter of Fundamental Rights was solemnly proclaimed in Nice on 7 December 2000 and whereas the political will exists to give it binding force in law,

B.   whereas Article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights provides that every person has the right to have his or her affairs handled impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time by the institutions and bodies of the Union,

C.   whereas Article 43 of the Charter provides that "any citizen of the Union and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State has the right to refer to the Ombudsman of the Union cases of maladministration in the activities of the Community institutions or bodies, with the exception of the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance acting in their judicial role",

D.   whereas the current year marks both the beginning of the second mandate of the current Ombudsman, Mr Nikiforos Diamandouros, and, in September, the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the European Ombudsman,

E.   whereas the Ombudsman's annual report was formally submitted to the President of the European Parliament on 8 March 2005 and the Ombudsman, Mr Nikiforos Diamandouros, presented the report to the Committee on Petitions on 10 May 2005 in Strasbourg,

F.   whereas in 2004 there was a substantial increase (53%) in the number of complaints addressed to the Ombudsman compared to the previous year and whereas only half of this increase (51%) is due to the fact that the nationals of the ten new Member States have now become European citizens,

G.   whereas the European Ombudsman is an impartial body and at the same time offers citizens an extrajudicial remedy within the Union, and whereas in 2004 he provided effective assistance in almost 70% of all cases referred to him, including inadmissible complaints,

H.   whereas the Ombudsman closed 251 enquiries in 2004, of which 247 were enquiries into complaints and four were own-initiative enquiries; whereas 65 cases were settled by the institution or body itself following a complaint to the Ombudsman and 12 friendly solutions were proposed,

I.   whereas the Ombudsman decided to submit a special report (OI/2/2003/GG) to the European Parliament in response to one complaint, which concerned a case in which the Ombudsman considered that the complainant had been subject to discriminatory employment conditions in the service of the Commission, and in which no amicable solution had been achieved and the Commission had not accepted his draft recommendation,

J.   whereas submitting a special report to the European Parliament represents an essential means by which the Ombudsman can seek the support of the European Parliament and its Committee on Petitions in order to bring satisfaction to citizens whose rights have been infringed, as well as promoting the improvement of the standards of European administration,

K.   whereas the Ombudsman's enquiries often produce positive results for complainants and can help to improve the quality of administrative services,

L.   whereas the numerous critical remarks made by the Ombudsman in his 2004 report regarding cases of maladministration may help to prevent errors or dysfunctions recurring in future through the adoption and implementation of suitable measures by EU institutions and other bodies,

M.   whereas a critical remark was addressed to the European Parliament because of its failure to take adequate measures to enforce its rules on smoking on its premises,

N.   whereas the Ombudsman continues to build constructive working relations with European Union institutions and bodies through meetings and joint events with a view to developing synergies in pursuit of common objectives,

O.   whereas the annual report illustrates the work done by the Ombudsman to extend and energise the network of national and regional ombudsmen in the Union, the applicant countries, Norway and Iceland, by developing information exchanges and the sharing of best practice, with due regard for the fact that the powers exercised by ombudsmen and their spheres of action and responsibility are often very different,

P.   whereas participation by the European Parliament's Committee on Petitions in this network could facilitate practical cooperation between European institutions and national and regional ombudsmen, given the various responsibilities they enjoy,

Q.   whereas in 2004 the Ombudsman extended his communication activities, in particular information visits, public events, conferences and interviews given to the press, in order to raise citizens" awareness of their rights vis-à-vis the Community's administration,

R.   whereas on 6 September 2001(2) the European Parliament unanimously adopted the Code of Good Administrative Behaviour, as recommended in the Ombudsman's special report of April 2000, but which the Commission has not yet adopted,

S.   whereas Mr Diamandouros recently advocated, in a letter to the President of the European Parliament and during a meeting with the Commission President and the College of Commissioners, that all the institutions and bodies should adopt a common approach with regard to a Code of Good Administrative Behaviour of the European Union,

T.   whereas the Ombudsman has repeated in his report his request for the statute governing his activities to be reviewed,

1.  Approves the annual report for 2004 submitted by the European Ombudsman and welcomes the new presentation and organisation of content in the report, which, in addition to providing a comprehensive overview of the cases dealt with and enquiries conducted during the year, contains a simple and clear thematic analysis;

2.  Congratulates the Ombudsman's Office on diversifying and modernising its annual publications to cater for the various needs of complainants, Members of Parliament, professionals and the general public;

3.  Welcomes the high public profile achieved by the Ombudsman in seeking to inform the public and considers that better quality information can help to reduce the number of complaints which fall outside his mandate;

4.  Urges the European Ombudsman to continue his efforts and to develop his activities in an efficient and flexible manner, so that he will be seen by citizens as the guardian of good administration of the European institutions;

5.  Notes that, although there has been an increase in the number of complaints received by the Ombudsman, around 75% of those complaints fall outside his mandate, since in most cases the target of the complaint is the national authorities, which are responsible for the application of Community law;

6.  Calls on the Ombudsman to define the concept of maladministration(3), with reference both to the institutions and bodies to which it applies, by drawing up a strict and exhaustive list, and to matters which may be the subject of complaints, by categorically excluding those which fall under the responsibility of the Member States" authorities;

7.  Urges the Ombudsman to continue to refer complaints falling outside his mandate, via the network, directly to the most appropriate national or local level, in accordance with the subsidiarity principle;

8.  Supports the Ombudsman's objective to achieve friendly solutions wherever possible;

9.  Urges the Ombudsman to refer matters to the Committee on Petitions so that the committee can debate at one of its meetings any rejection of an friendly solution or draft recommendation by the institution or body concerned, hearing the views of the complainant if appropriate;

10.  Notes that seven cases were closed when a draft recommendation was accepted by the institution concerned and that one case led to a special report (OI/2/2003/GG);

11.  Welcomes the Ombudsman's special report (OI/2/2003/GG) and recommends to the Commission, as a matter of respect for the rights of European citizens and for the benefit of the quality of European administration, that it re-examine the rules concerning the recruitment of the press officer of the delegations in third countries;

12.  Calls on the Ombudsman to be present in the Committee on Petitions every time he submits a special report to Parliament, implementing Rule 195 of its Rules of Procedure, and considers that Parliament should, in general, adopt a position on such reports, by adopting a separate report with a resolution;

13.  Approves the Ombudsman's efforts to secure acceptance on the part of the European institutions of a shorter deadline for dealing with complaints concerning refusal to grant access to documents and urges the Council to accept this proposal;

14.  Calls on all Community institutions and bodies to interpret as broadly as possible the provisions of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents(4); in particular, urges the Commission not to refuse to make its documents available on the pretext that they are intended for internal use;

15.  Calls on the Commission to deal with complaints concerning infringements within a reasonable timescale;

16.  Urges the Commission to take measures to end the existing situation whereby institutions and bodies follow different codes of conduct and calls on it to adopt the European Code of Good Administrative Behaviour;

17.  Invites parties to the Ombudsman's inquiries to include in their correspondence a reference to the relevant article of the European Code and calls on all Community institutions and bodies to contribute to a review of the Code and to report to the Ombudsman concerning their implementation of the Code, in accordance with Article 27 thereof;

18.  Points out that the Commission ought to begin preparatory work for the submission of a law on good administration;

19.  Supports the need for a review of the Ombudsman's statute, as approved by the European Parliament by its Decision 94/262/ECSC, EC, Euratom of 9 March 1994(5), in the light of developments during the last decade, including the investigative powers of the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and the adoption of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001;

20.  Encourages the extension and strengthening of the system of non-judicial appeal which provides citizens with an alternative to legal action, in the form of decisions and recommendations which are not legally binding and do not constitute coercive measures;

21.  Urges the Ombudsman to use his powers of recommendation and, if appropriate, to draw up a special report pursuant to the second subparagraph of Article 195(1) of the EC Treaty, in the event of complaints concerning infringements of rights enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and to cooperate closely with the European Parliament and the future Fundamental Rights Agency in order to find the most appropriate remedy;

22.  Welcomes the close cooperation between the European Ombudsman and his national, regional and local counterparts, notably through the European ombudsmen's network, which has become an effective mechanism for dealing with citizens' complaints promptly and efficiently;

23.  Considers that the inclusion of the European Parliament's Committee on Petitions in the network will enable it to increase and strengthen its regular contacts with the committees on petitions of the national parliaments and the ombudsmen of Member States;

24.  Commends the Ombudsman's efforts to publicise his role and inform citizens of their rights through the distribution of materials, visits to the Member States and conferences;

25.  Urges the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) to respect the rules and practices concerning openness and transparency in recruitment procedures and in particular to comply with Article 4 of the European Code of Good Administrative Behaviour by stating the reasons for its decisions;

26.  Commends the good working relationship developed between the Ombudsman's Office and the Committee on Petitions, including a process for the mutual transfer of cases;

27.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution and the report of the Committee on Petitions to the Council, the Commission, the European Ombudsman, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the ombudsmen or equivalent bodies in the Member States.

(1) OJ C 329, 6.12.1993, p. 132.
(2) OJ C 72 E, 21.3.2002, p. 331.
(3) The Ombudsman proposed the following definition in his 1997 annual report: "maladministration occurs when a public body fails to act in accordance with a rule or principle which is binding upon it".
(4) OJ L 145, 31.5.2001, p. 43.
(5) OJ L 113, 4.5.1994, p. 15. Decision as amended by Decision 2002/262/EC, ECSC, Euratom (OJ L 92, 9.4.2002, p. 13).

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