Commission bears brunt of ombudsman complaints
"Quite a lot remains to be done" to increase people's trust in the EU's institutions, admitted the European Ombudsman today as he published his 2010 annual report – which shows that an increasing percentage of the complaints made to him concerned the European Commission.
Ombudsman Paraskevas Nikiforos Diamondouros' role is to investigate maladministration – defined as "when a public body fails to acts in accordance with a rule or principle which is binding upon it" – in the EU's institutions.
In total last year he received 2,667 complaints, down from 3,098 in 2009 – a drop which the ombudsman put down to people having a better understanding of his remit. Transparency and access to information were the most common issues that arose, making up a third of all the complaints.
The majority, 65 per cent, were made against the commission, up from 56 per cent the previous year. 10 per cent concerned the European Personnel Selection Office – which recruits staff across all the EU's institutions – and 7 per cent related to the European Parliament.
Speaking to PublicServiceEurope.com in March, Diamondouros said: "The majority of complaints relate to the commission for the simple mathematical reason that it represents about 67 per cent of the entire civil service of the EU and it is the institution that most citizens have contact with."
Despite the large number of complaints, the ombudsman – who closed 326 inquiries in 2010 – only made critical remarks to the institution involved on 33 occasions. His most serious rebuke, a special report to the parliament, was used on only one occasion, when the commission failed to release documents relating to a case for 15 months – the Lisbon Treaty sets a deadline of three months.
The most complaints, 14.1 per cent of the total, came from Germany, although the most in relation to the size of its population were from Luxembourg. The fewest complaints came from Malta, but of the larger EU members the UK was the least active in turning to the ombudsman.
According to the report, in 70 per cent of cases the ombudsman was able to help the complainant by either opening an inquiry, or – more often – simply giving advice and transferring the complaint to the relevant authority.
Presenting his report, Diamondouros said: "The ombudsman's main priority is to help the EU administration to become more open, proactive, accountable, and citizen-friendly, in order to increase citizens' trust in the European public service. Quite a lot remains to be done in this respect. I am, however, delighted that in more than half of the cases I closed in 2010, the institution concerned accepted a friendly solution proposal or settled the matter."
The ombudsman's office last year employed 63 staff and had a budget of €9.3m. Diamondouros was re-elected to the post in January 2010 – and told PublicServiceEurope.com in March that he would not seek a further mandate when his current term ends. He has held the role since 2003.
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