Watchdog calls for complaints code of practice

Series Title
Series Details Vol.7, No.47, 20.12.01, p6
Publication Date 20/12/2001
Content Type

Date: 20/12/01

THE European Ombudsman has urged the Commission to set up a public code of practice showing how it deals with infringements of Community law in member states.

Jacob Söderman says such a move would help improve public confidence in the institution. His call follows new figures revealing that the majority of the 2,100 complaints he has handled so far this year - 343 - were about the Commission.

This compares with 29 complaints against the European Parliament, nine against the Council of Ministers and one to the Court of Auditors.

Most of the Commission complaints allege maladministration, while others concern refusal to provide information, undue administrative delay and contractual disputes, the Ombudsman said. Strasbourg-based Söderman, the EU's "watchdog" for the past six years, told European Voice that the Union executive could improve its standing with the public by establishing a code of practice showing exactly how it deals with complaints.

"There have been some improvements in the past year, particularly the speed with which the institutions are responding to cases I raise," he said.

"But there are still problems with issues like access to documents and too much of the Commission's work is deemed to be secret and confidential. If I had one New Year's wish, it would be that something is done about this in the coming year."

Between 1 January and 30 November, Söderman's caseload increased by nearly 10 compared with the same period in 2000. Of the 472 inquiries closed during this period, 151 were settled by the institution and seven were terminated after the complaint was withdrawn.

A total of 74 inquiries were closed with criticism of the institution concerned while 23 cases resulted in a recommendation by the Ombudsman.

In cases that were inadmissible, Söderman referred complainants to a national or regional ombudsman (817 cases) or petition the European Parliament (232 cases).

Countries from which most complaints are received were France, Spain, Germany and Italy.

The European Ombudsman has urged the European Commission to set up a public code of practice showing how it deals with infringements of Community law in Member States. Article also looks at the increased workload of the European Ombudsman during 2001.

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