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Procedure : 2008/2072(INI)
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Document selected : A6-0395/2008

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PV 20/11/2008 - 6.3
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Thursday, 20 November 2008 - Strasbourg
Special Report by the European Ombudsman following the draft recommendation to the Council of the European Union in complaint 1487/2005/GG

European Parliament resolution of 20 November 2008 on the Special Report by the European Ombudsman following the draft recommendation to the Council of the European Union in complaint 1487/2005/GG (2008/2072(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the Special Report from the European Ombudsman to the European Parliament,

–   having regard to Article 195(1), second subparagraph, of the EC Treaty,

–   having regard to Decision 94/262/ECSC, EC, Euratom of the European Parliament of 9 March 1994 on the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the Ombudsman's duties(1), particularly Article 3(7) thereof,

–   having regard to the studies carried out by the Commission, as published in Special Eurobarometer Nos 237 and 243, on the dissemination of languages in the European Union,

–   having regard to Article 3(5) of the Statute of the Ombudsman, which directs the Ombudsman to seek, as far as possible, a solution with the institution concerned in order to eliminate the instance of maladministration and satisfy the complainant,

–   having regard to Rule 195(2), first sentence, of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Petitions (A6-0395/2008),

A.   whereas improved transparency, the promotion of multilingualism and the provision of accurate information to the public are objectives which are given the highest priority by the EU and its institutions,

B.   whereas ease of access to information for as many EU citizens as possible is an important prerequisite for, and a basic element of, the general principles of democratic legitimacy and transparency,

C.   wishing to enable as many citizens as possible to have direct access to information on the activities of the EU institutions in all their formations,

D.   whereas this wish must be reconciled with the logistical challenge posed by a large number of official EU languages,

E.   whereas the internet is an increasingly important means of obtaining information and must, accordingly, be used by the European Union in its efforts to achieve transparency and disseminate information,

1.  Endorses the conclusions of the Ombudsman, namely that:

   a) the Council, like every EU institution, is, in the first instance, itself responsible for the websites of its presidency and the languages used thereon;
   b) the practices followed in the Council cannot be pursued in a way which is completely isolated from uniform implementation by the institutions and their formations;
   c) the information on these websites should, ideally, be made available in good time in all official languages of the Community;
   d) if the number of languages is to be limited, the choice of the languages to be used must be based on criteria of objectivity, reasonableness, transparency and manageability;
   e) the Council's refusal to address the substance of the complainant's request constitutes an instance of maladministration;

2.  Is astonished to note, in this regard, that the Council does not consider itself empowered to address this question, even though it is one which affects all Member States and the Council could make recommendations to all future presidencies;

3.  Notes with regret that the Council, unlike other institutions such as the Commission and Parliament, which have significantly improved the number of languages available in their communication with citizens, has so far completely avoided addressing in a substantive way the question of the language options of the websites of its presidencies;

4.  Invites the Council to conduct a comprehensive review of the question of expanding the language options of the websites of its presidencies, irrespective of the question of responsibility or authority for these websites, so as to ensure that as large a section as possible of the population of the European Union has easy and direct access to information on its activities; calls on the Council to inform Parliament of the results of its deliberations;

5.  Stresses that any reduction of the language options which may prove necessary must be undertaken on the basis of objective and sufficiently justified criteria, that it must be announced publicly and that only the language of the incumbent presidency may have priority until the end of such presidency;

6.  Supports the recommendation of the Ombudsman to the Council that it examine the complainant's request that the websites of the Council presidencies be also made available in German;

7.  Welcomes the fact that, in contrast to the practice of past presidencies, whereby websites were only available in English, French and the language of the incumbent presidency, the French Council Presidency publishes its official website in the most widely spoken official languages of the European Union (English, German, French, Italian and Spanish);

8.  Addresses itself to all future Council presidencies, in the hope that they will make their websites available in as many languages as possible and, in the event of a restriction on the number of languages, will use the most widely spoken official languages according to an order of priority;

9.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the European Ombudsman and the governments and parliaments of the Member States.

(1) OJ L 113, 4.5.1994, p. 15.

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