N. Peter Kramer’s Weekly Column
The Constitutional Commission of the European Parliament endorsed a draft report on the Statute of the European Ombudsman. Once formally adopted the new statute will update the rules governing the performance of the Ombudsman’s duties. Now the draft report needs the consent of the European Council and only an opinion by the European Commission, before a plenary session of the Parliament can formally adopt the new statute.
Under the new rules, the Ombudsman’s office will enjoy a broad mandate and powers of initiative. The Ombudsman will be able to conduct own-initiative inquiries whenever s/he finds grounds to do so in cases of serious maladministration.
The Ombudsman will also have access to all elements required for the performance of her/his duties. A clear set of rules on how to request information, including classified documents, will be binding on the EU institutions and on the many EU agencies often operating outside direct sight, but also on the authorities of the member states.
The Ombudsman may propose solutions to address issues within her/his remit, but may not question a court’s ruling. It is important that special references is made in the new rules to protecting victims of harassment and whistle-blowers.
The Commission with its hundreds of questionable ‘revolving door’ cases, procurement procedures and unclear appointments will finally have to be more transparent.
The Parliament sounds enthusiastic: ‘The new statute will deliver to the citizens a stronger, better equipped and more independent European Ombudsman’, EP rapporteur, the Portuguese Paulo Rangel, commented. Probably the MEPs have forgotten that the new statute will also increase the ombudsman’s ability to investigate their shady and uncontrolled practice of stipends.