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EO express 01/2023

The EO express brings you an overview of the European Ombudsman's recent activities, including inquiry openings, key findings, speeches and events. It is published six times a year.


Ombudsman regrets Frontex’s continued refusal to simplify access to documents procedure

The Ombudsman confirmed her finding of maladministration against the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) following the agency’s continued refusal to simplify its access to documents procedure. Specifically, Frontex no longer communicates with people requesting documents via email and obliges them to use its online access portal. Finding no justification for this policy, the Ombudsman had asked Frontex to allow requests by email once again. She also asked Frontex to ensure it has sufficient resources for the large number of access requests it is likely to receive going forward and suggested it publish a detailed manual on how it handles public access requests.

Commission taking unreasonably long to deal with two infringement complaints, says Ombudsman

The Ombudsman found that the Commission has taken far too long (over thirteen years) to deal with the initial administrative stages of two infringement proceedings against Germany concerning planning laws and retail space. In their complaints to the Ombudsman, retail firms Ikea and Decathlon, took issue with the delay, as well as with the differing explanations given by the Commission for it. After hearing from the Commission, the Ombudsman stated that the delay could not be justified and found maladministration. For its part, the Commission has indicated that it intends to take a decision on the cases early this year.

Commission to strengthen how it monitors implementation of EU data protection rules following Ombudsman inquiry

The Ombudsman has welcomed the Commission’s move to require detailed information every two months from all EU national data protection authorities (DPAs) on cross-border investigations related to potential infringement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The Commission’s announcement follows an Ombudsman inquiry into whether the Commission collects sufficient information to monitor Ireland’s implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In that inquiry, the Ombudsman found that the Commission’s actions were in line with good administration, but also made suggestions for improved data collection and transparency.


Ombudsman calls for transparency in Parliament ethics reform process

January draft proposals from the President of the European Parliament on reforming the Parliament’s ethics rules are a step in the right direction, according to the Ombudsman, who called for transparency in the overall process and its next steps. Referring to some of the measures proposed, the Ombudsman welcomed the idea of a ‘cooling-off’ period for former MEPs and the creation of an integrity section on the Parliament’s website. At the same time, the Ombudsman said that some proposals could be further strengthened. For example, the Ombudsman suggested that information about meetings of all MEPs with lobbyists and representatives from non-EU countries could be published. She also suggested that the committee monitoring the implementation of the MEPs’ Code of Conduct should be able to conduct investigations on its own initiative. In response to the Ombudsman's letter, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola noted her determination to strengthen the Parliament's integrity, independence, and accountability.


EU oversight authorities reaffirm commitment to promoting integrity and accountability

Following a meeting in Brussels on 8 February, European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, President of the European Court of Auditors Tony Murphy, Director-General of the European Anti-Fraud Office Ville Itälä, and European Chief Prosecutor Laura Kövesi reaffirmed their commitment to fulfilling their respective duties in promoting the integrity and accountability of the EU institutions. They noted that their respective investigative and audit work makes a key contribution to safeguarding the integrity of the EU administration.


New guide on access to EU documents

The Ombudsman has published a new guide on access to EU documents to help raise awareness and understanding about the public’s rights in this area. Drawn up by experts in the Ombudsman office, the guide answers basic questions about who can make access requests and what kind of documents are covered by the EU law. It also covers more complex questions on how access rules have been interpreted by the courts and the Ombudsman. The guide should help people exercising their right to access EU documents for the first time, as well as those wanting more detailed information on particular aspects of EU transparency law.

Conference report on the evolving role of the European Ombudsman

The report on the conference on ‘the evolving role of the European Ombudsman’ is now available on the Ombudsman’s website. Held in Florence, Italy on 17-18 November 2022, the conference was jointly organised by the European Ombudsman and the European University Institute‘s Department of Law and School of Transnational Governance. The report summarises the perspectives of various conference participants from academia, civil society, EU administration, and the Ombudsman’s Office.


Integrity in politics and administration - Ombudsman addresses King’s College London alumni in Brussels

“Law making is an incredible privilege and a profoundly important duty. If the people we elect have a deep and visceral sense of that, then we will have gone a long way towards restoring public trust in our democratic institutions.”

Full speech of European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly to King's College London Alumni in Brussels on 24 January.