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Procedure : 2010/2059(INI)
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Document selected : A7-0275/2010

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PV 25/11/2010 - 4
CRE 25/11/2010 - 4

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PV 25/11/2010 - 8.3
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Thursday, 25 November 2010 - Strasbourg
European Ombudsman's activity report for 2009

European Parliament resolution of 25 November 2010 on the annual report on the European Ombudsman's activities in 2009 (2010/2059(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the annual report on the European Ombudsman's activities in 2009,

–  having regard to Article 24, third paragraph, and Article 228 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to Articles 41 and 43 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

–  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),

–  having regard to the framework agreement on cooperation concluded between the European Parliament and the Ombudsman on 15 March 2006, which entered into force on 1 April 2006,

–  having regard to the Commission's communication of 5 October 2005 entitled ‘Empowerment to adopt and transmit communications to the European Ombudsman and authorise civil servants to appear before the European Ombudsman’ (SEC(2005)1227),

–  having regard to Decision 2008/587/EC, Euratom of the European Parliament of 18 June 2008 amending Decision 94/262/ECSC, EC, Euratom on the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the Ombudsman's duties(2),

–  having regard to the revision by the Ombudsman of his implementing provisions in order to reflect the changes to the Statute, which revision came into force on 1 January 2009,

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

–  having regard to Rule 205(2), second and third sentences, of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Petitions (A7-0275/2010),

A.  whereas the annual report on the European Ombudsman's activities in 2009 was formally submitted to the President of Parliament on 19 April 2010 and the Ombudsman, Mr Nikiforos Diamandouros, presented the report to the Committee on Petitions in Brussels on 4 May 2010,

B.  whereas Article 24 of the TFEU lays down that ‘every citizen of the Union may apply to the Ombudsman established in accordance with Article 228’,

C.  whereas, under Article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, ‘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’,

D.  whereas Article 43 of the Charter states 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’,

E.  whereas, since the TFEU entered into force, the common foreign and security policy and the activities of the European Council have fallen within the remit of the Ombudsman,

F.  whereas pursuant to Article 228 of the TFEU the Ombudsman is now ‘elected after each election of the European Parliament for the duration of its term of office’ and no longer ‘appointed’ by the Parliament,

G.  whereas the work of the Ombudsman contributes towards a Union ‘in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen’, as provided for in Article 1, second paragraph, of the Treaty on European Union,

H.  whereas the Ombudsman registered 3098 complaints in 2009 compared to 3406 in 2008, and whereas 727 complaints (23 %) compared to 802 in 2008 were found to be within his mandate,

I.  whereas in 2009 the Ombudsman opened 335 inquiries on the basis of complaints and completed and closed 318 inquiries, 311 of which were based on complaints while seven were own-initiative investigations,

J.  whereas in 179 cases (56 % of the total) closed in 2009, the institution concerned accepted a friendly solution or settled the matter, which shows a strong willingness on the part of the institutions and bodies to see complaints to the Ombudsman as an opportunity to remedy mistakes that have occurred and to cooperate with the Ombudsman for the benefit of citizens,

K.  whereas in 2009 the Ombudsman found maladministration to have been committed in 12 % of cases (37 inquiries), giving rise to critical remarks in 35 cases,

L.  whereas 15 draft recommendations were issued in 2009,

M.  whereas the most common types of alleged maladministration were lack of transparency, including refusal of information (36 % of inquiries), injustice or abuse of power (14 %), avoidable delays (13 %), procedural errors (13 %), negligence (6 %), failure by the Commission to fulfil its duty to act as the guardian of the Treaties (6 %), legal errors (6 %) and discrimination (5 %),

N.  whereas the average time taken to consider complaints fell from 13 months in 2008 to 9 months in 2009, which bears witness to the Ombudsman's efforts to shorten the average length of his inquiries and the spirit of cooperation of the institutions concerned,

O.  whereas no case of maladministration led to a special report to the European Parliament in 2009,

P.  whereas the critical remarks and recommendations of the Ombudsman are not legally binding but have the aim of encouraging self-monitoring by the institutions and bodies of the European Union and may serve as a basis for avoiding a repetition of errors and malfunctions in future,

Q.  whereas the role of the Ombudsman has evolved since the office was created, thanks to the Ombudsman's independence and the democratic scrutiny of his activities performed by Parliament and the Committee on Petitions,

R.  whereas it is essential that the European institutions and bodies make full use of the necessary resources in order to fulfil their obligation to ensure that citizens receive prompt and substantive responses to their enquiries, complaints and petitions,

S.  whereas Parliament adopted the Ombudsman's Code of Good Administrative Behaviour in its resolution of 6 September 2001(3),

T.  whereas the European Network of Ombudsmen makes it possible to redirect complainants to the ombudsmen or other similar bodies which are expected to provide the assistance most appropriate to their level and to exchange information and good practices,

U.  whereas the work of the Ombudsman and that of the Committee on Petitions are complementary and promote greater effectiveness of their respective work,

1.  Approves the annual report on the European Ombudsman's activities in 2009;

2.  Points out that the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty increases the democratic legitimacy of the Ombudsman thanks to his election by Parliament and extends his remit to include the common foreign and security policy and the activities of the European Council;

3.  Welcomes the fact that, with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is now legally binding, defines the right to good administration as one of the fundamental rights vested in citizens of the Union; calls therefore on the Ombudsman, in his everyday consideration of complaints, to enforce the Charter of Fundamental Rights;

4.  Considers that transparency, access to information and respect for the right to good administration are vital preconditions for maintaining citizens' confidence in the institutions' ability to assert their rights;

5.  Considers, therefore, that the term ‘maladministration’ should continue to be broadly interpreted so as to include not only infringements of legal rules or general principles of European administrative law, such as objectivity, proportionality and equality, non-discrimination and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, but also instances where an institution fails to act consistently and in good faith, or to take into account the legitimate expectations of citizens, including when an institution has itself undertaken to respect certain norms and standards without being obliged to do so by the Treaties or secondary legislation;

6.  Congratulates the Ombudsman on the clear and comprehensive presentation of his work; suggests, nonetheless, that in future reports the summary of activities and thematic analysis should place greater emphasis on structural problems and general trends;

7.  Considers that the Ombudsman has exercised his powers in an active and balanced way during the reporting period, both with regard to examining and handling complaints and conducting and concluding inquiries and with regard to maintaining constructive relations with the European Union's institutions and bodies and encouraging citizens to avail themselves of their rights in relation to those institutions and bodies;

8.  Welcomes the excellent relationship between the Ombudsman and the Committee on Petitions within the institutional framework as regards reciprocal respect for their competences; favours the continuation of the practice already established by the Ombudsman of sending a representative to each meeting of the Committee on Petitions;

9.  Recognises the vital contribution made by the European Network of Ombudsmen, represented by 94 offices in 32 countries, of which the Committee on Petitions is a member, in line with the principle of subsidiarity; welcomes the collaboration between the European Ombudsman and ombudsmen and similar bodies at national, regional and local levels in the Member States;

10.  Notes that the Ombudsman registered 3098 complaints in 2009 and that 318 inquiries were completed and concluded during that year;

11.  Welcomes the large number of procedures concluded by an amicable resolution or by the institution concerned (56 %), which bears witness to the constructive cooperation which exists between the Ombudsman and the institutions and bodies of the Union; encourages the Ombudsman and the institutions and bodies of the Union to continue to apply this approach;

12.  Welcomes the Ombudsman's endeavours which resulted in his shortening the average length of his inquiries to nine months; calls for all EU institutions and bodies to be given the necessary budgetary and human resources to ensure that rapid action is taken in response to complaints and petitions;

13.  Notes that more than a third of the inquiries opened by the Ombudsman in 2009 concerned a lack of transparency; calls therefore for the current revision of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 not to restrict the existing right of access to information and documents but to adopt a more proactive approach;

14.  Welcomes the progress made in 2009 as regards facilitating the Ombudsman's access to confidential Council documents;

15.  Notes the communication and website development strategy, which, according to the Ombudsman, has helped to cut the number of inadmissible complaints, and encourages the Ombudsman to continue his efforts to inform Europe's citizens about his role and the limits to his powers and about their rights;

16.  Endorses the Ombudsman's opinion that, in addition to respect for the binding rules which apply to administrators, it is essential to develop a genuine tradition of service to the public in order to ensure good administration; calls on the Ombudsman, therefore, more often to take the initiative to promote such a tradition of service on the part of the European institutions and citizens;

17.  Deplores the number of complaints concerning avoidable delays in registering requests, handling cases and taking decisions; proposes that the revision of the Financial Regulation should include provision for financial compensation in the event of manifest and prolonged delays;

18.  Notes that the Ombudsman has completed an own-initiative inquiry into the rules which the Commission applies to applications by members of the public for access to documents concerning infringement proceedings; favours increased cooperation with the Committee on Petitions and suggests that the Ombudsman keep that Committee regularly informed about the own-initiative inquiries which he is conducting and the results thereof; calls on the Commission to adopt a more open and proactive attitude towards information about infringement proceedings;

19.  Considers that the Code of Good Administrative Behaviour proposed by the Ombudsman and approved by Parliament in its resolution of 6 September 2001 serves as a guide and resource for the staff of all Community institutions and bodies; welcomes the fact that the Code of Good Behaviour has been approved by the European Economic and Social Committee; welcomes the fact, also, that a Memorandum of Understanding has been concluded with the European Investment Bank concerning the handling of complaints; calls on the Ombudsman to consider revising the Code of Good Behaviour on the basis of the experience gained in the past 10 years and in that way to promote and exchange good practices;

20.  Regrets that complaints about the inadequate application by a Member State of EU law received by national ombudsmen are not recorded by the European Ombudsman; suggests that the European Ombudsman consider pooling them in order to facilitate better understanding of the problem;

21.  Calls on the Ombudsman to encourage national ombudsmen to hold regular exchanges of views with their national parliaments, modelled on those which have been established between the European Ombudsman and Parliament;

22.  Calls on the Commission to draft a European administrative law common to all the bodies, institutions and agencies of the Union;

23.  Draws the attention of the Ombudsman to the new procedure for selection of staff by EPSO and suggests monitoring its application and analysing the developments observed;

24.  Supports the idea of an intranet portal common to all members of the European Network of Ombudsmen in order to disseminate results regularly;

25.  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 their ombudsmen or similar competent bodies.

(1) OJ L 113, 4.5.1994, p. 15.
(2) OJ L 189, 17.7.2008, p. 25.
(3) OJ C 72 E, 21.3.2002, p. 331.

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