The EU Ombudsman plays a key role in making EU institutions more open and transparent, and should go on defending citizens' right of access to documents, says a resolution adopted by Parliament on Thursday.
In 2010, the European Ombudsman received 2,667 complaints from citizens, companies, associations, NGOs and regional offices. The commonest allegation by far was a lack of transparency in the EU administration (33% of all closed inquiries), say MEPs.
The regulation on access to documents from EU institutions has been in force for 10 years. This legislation's basic precept is that openness is the rule and secrecy the exception, stresses the resolution, noting that the institutions "are still struggling with this concept".
Parliament encourages the Ombudsman to continue to insist on the fundamental right of access to documents and the proper implementation of the principle of transparency of the decision making process. MEPs also regret the lack of progress in the recast procedure of this regulation and urge the Council and the Commission to be more open in giving access to documents and information to citizens and to the European Parliament.
Petitions web portal
The number of complaints which were found to fall outside the Ombudsman's sphere of competence decreased by more than 400, notes the resolution. MEPs believe that this decline in inadmissible complaints can be attributed to the interactive guide placed on the Ombudsman’s web site in 2009. They call for resources to put in place a similar web portal for Parliament's Committee on Petitions to enhance the institution's visibility and transparency.
In 2010, the European Ombudsman received 2 667 complaints, compared to 3 098 in 2009. In over 70% of all cases, the Ombudsman was able to help the complainants by opening an inquiry, transferring a case to the competent body, or giving advice on where to turn.
The most common subject matter of inquiries closed by the Ombudsman in 2010 was a lack of transparency in the EU administration (33%), including refusal to release documents or information. Other cases concerned problems with the execution of EU contracts or calls for tender, unfairness, abuse of power, or discrimination.
The Ombudsman's role is to investigate cases of maladministration in the EU institutions and bodies, such as refusal to grant citizens access to documents, abuse of power, discrimination, administrative irregularities or failure to reply. Nikiforos Diamandouros has been the Ombudsman since January 2003. In 15 years, the Ombudsman's office has responded to over 36,000 complaints from all over Europe.