|Author (Person)||Shelley, John|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.31, 2.8.01, p4|
MEPS are set to beef up the role of the European Ombudsman, giving him greater powers to interrogate EU officials and an unrestricted right to examine confidential internal documents.
Under the rule changes, expected to be approved by deputies in the first week of September, officials interviewed by the Ombudsman will be forced to give him "complete and truthful" answers for the first time.
The watchdog's right of access to documents drawn up within the institutions will include e-mails between officials. "The deepening of democracy and the associated greater involvement of the citizen in the workings of the community necessarily call for greater openness in the EU institutions' decision-making process," said centre-right Portuguese member Teresa Almeida Garrett, author of the European Parliament's report on the subject.
The latest developments will be seen as a victory for the Ombudsman Jacob Söderman, who had called for his powers to be extended.
He said the current rules give officials a licence to lie because they require them to speak "on behalf of and in accordance with instructions from their administrators".
In addition, the release of documents to Söderman's office has been delayed in some cases due to a clause which allows officials to block access on "duly substantiated grounds of secrecy".
Commission Vice-President Loyola de Palacio had argued against changing the Ombudsman's statute, insisting the move could lead to legal problems - particularly if they mean staff are asked to betray their bosses.
While she has lost this argument she has won one important concession: the Parliament has rejected Soderman's request to be allowed to quiz commissioners in suspected cases of maladministration. "Such a provision could give rise to confusion between control of the institution's administrative practices and control over the political acts of members of those institutions," said Almeida Garrett in her report. "In fact in the rare cases in the past in which the Ombudsman has felt the need to ask a commissioner to supply further information on a dossier, he has, as he confirms, always received a written reply enabling him to pursue his inquiry."
MEPs are set to beef up the role of the European Ombudsman, giving him greater powers to interrogate EU officials and an unrestricted right to examine confidential internal documents.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|