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Decision of the European Ombudsman on complaint 1028/2000/ME against the European Investment Bank


Strasbourg, 14 May 2001

Dear Dr N.,

On 24 August 2000, you made a complaint to the European Ombudsman concerning the appointment of a new Vice-President of the European Investment Bank.

On 8 September 2000, I forwarded the complaint to the President of the European Investment Bank. The Bank sent its opinion on 19 September 2000. I forwarded it to you with an invitation to make observations, which you sent on 26 November 2000. On 6 September 2000, you sent an additional letter which was received by the Ombudsman on 8 September 2000. This letter was also forwarded to the Bank. The Bank sent its opinion on this additional letter on 13 December 2000. I forwarded it to you with an invitation to make observations, which you sent on 1 March 2001. On 26 September 2000, you sent further information.

I am writing now to let you know the results of the inquiries that have been made.


THE COMPLAINT

The complainant turned to the Ombudsman in August 2000 concerning the appointment of a new Vice-President of the European Investment Bank. According to the complainant, seventeen nominations, including his own, were received by the Bank. From statements made by the Bank and in the media, it appeared however, that only the candidacy of the former judge Mr Hugh O'Flaherty, nominated by the Irish Minister of Finance, was being considered. Moreover, since his application, he had heard nothing from the Bank despite repeated requests.

The complainant alleged that the Bank failed to respond to his communications, and claimed that the Bank should consider his candidacy in parallel with Mr O'Flaherty's.

In an additional letter to the Ombudsman, the complainant also put forward the following:

It was known that the Bank only considered the nomination of Mr O'Flaherty and that he had visited the Bank's headquarters in Luxembourg. The complainant stated that this was discriminating against other candidates. Although Mr O'Flaherty had since withdrawn his candidature, the Bank did not consider the existing list of alternative candidates but requested a replacement candidate from the Irish Minister of Finance. The complainant found this unacceptable and addressed a letter to the President of the Bank in this matter. The complainant also stated that the President of the Bank had, in a letter to the Irish Minister of Finance, admitted that the procedure was flawed.

The complainant finally claimed that the Bank should consider the existing list of candidates in a fair, impartial and non-discriminatory way. If no suitable candidate was found, the position should be filled by way of an open competition.

THE INQUIRY

The European Investment Bank's opinion

In its opinion, the Bank stated that the complainant submitted his candidature for the position as Vice-President of the Bank by e-mail on 21 July 2000. It was acknowledged the same day and the complainant was informed that the Secretariat would bring it to the attention of the Board of Directors, the governing body responsible for making proposals for Management Committee appointments to the Board of Governors. On 26 July 2000, the complainant sent his curriculum vitae to the Bank and it was acknowledged on 27 July 2000 indicating that it would be brought to the attention of the Board of Directors. On 18 August 2000, the complainant wrote to the Bank commenting on press reports that only Mr O'Flaherty's candidature was being considered. On 29 August 2000, before the Bank had time to reply to the complainant's letter and several hundred other letters that it received from Irish citizens, the Bank was notified that Mr O'Flaherty's candidature was withdrawn. On 31 August and 3 September 2000, the complainant wrote again to the Bank and the Bank replied on 11 September 2000 informing the complainant of the next steps of the procedure and that the Board of Directors was in possession of all candidatures and that all applicants would be informed of the outcome.

In reply to the complainant's additional letter, the Bank stated the following:

As regards the complainant's allegation that the selection process was flawed, it seemed that the complainant had misunderstood the distinction between the prerogatives of shareholders of an organisation and the duties of the organisation's governing body. In that respect it is important to distinguish between the shareholders of the Bank, i.e. the Member States, and the Board of Directors, whose statutory responsibilities are to ensure that the Bank is properly run and managed. Moreover, the Bank had not requested a nomination from the Irish Minister of Finance, but Ireland, as a shareholder, notified it of its intention to nominate another candidate.

The Bank stated that, as it had already informed the complainant, all candidatures, including the complainant's, were submitted for consideration by the Board of Directors. Subsequently, the Board of Governors had decided to appoint Mr Michael Tutty and before informing the press, all candidates, including the complainant, were informed in a letter of special delivery.

The Bank concluded that in its view there had been no discrimination or administrative irregularities on its part.

The complainant's observations

In his observations, the complainant maintained his complaint. The complainant questioned the argument that all candidates were considered equally and stated that it was obvious that the only candidature considered was the one proposed by the Irish Minister of Finance. The Bank appeared to hide behind the right of Member States to nominate candidates, however, the possibility for nominations by the people, as the State, had been confirmed by the Irish Supreme Court. Again the complainant underlined that the Bank had asked the Irish government for an alternative candidate and further the Bank had still not explained why it met only with Mr O'Flaherty.

THE DECISION

1 Failure to reply

1.1 The complainant alleged that the Bank failed to respond to his communications.

1.2 The Bank stated that it had replied to the complainant and provided copies of the correspondence. As regards the complainant's letter of 18 August 2000, the Bank stated that it had not had time to reply to it and several hundred other letters received from Irish citizens before it was notified that Mr O'Flaherty's candidature was withdrawn on 29 August 2000. On 31 August and 3 September 2000, the complainant wrote again to the Bank. The Bank replied by letter of 11 September 2000.

1.3 The Ombudsman notes that the complainant wrote to the Bank on 21 July 2000 and received a reply the same day and that the complainant's letter of 26 July 2000 was replied to on 27 July 2000. He then wrote on 18 and 31 August and 3 September 2000 and the Bank replied on 11 September. The complainant moreover wrote to the Bank on 23 September 2000 and received a reply on 4 October 2000. Against this background, the Ombudsman finds that the Bank has properly replied to the complainant in accordance with the principles of good administration. There is therefore no maladministration as regards this part of the complaint.

2 The consideration of candidates

2.1 The complainant alleged that the Bank only considered the candidate nominated by the Irish Minister of Finance (Mr O'Flaherty). The Bank had met only with him and not with other candidates. When his candidature was withdrawn, the Bank requested a new nomination from the Irish Minister of Finance despite the fact that there were other candidates. The complainant claimed that the Bank should consider all candidates in parallel with Mr O'Flaherty's and in a fair, impartial and non-discriminatory way.

2.2 The Bank stated that all applications, including that of the complainant, were submitted for consideration by the Board of Directors who would make the proposal to the Board of Governors. The Bank had not requested a new candidacy from the Irish government who itself nominated a new candidate.

2.3 The Ombudsman notes that Article 13(1) of the Statute of the European Investment Bank(1) states that the President and Vice-Presidents of the Management Committee are appointed by the Board of Governors on a proposal from the Board of Directors. Article 9(3) of the Statute empowers the Board of Governors to exercise this right.

2.4 The correspondence showed that the complainant was informed that his application was received and put to the attention of the Board of Directors. Once the appointment had been made the complainant was informed thereof. The Bank has stated that that all nominations received were put to the attention of the Board of Directors and the applicants were informed of the outcome. There is no indication that the Bank's statement would be incorrect and the complainant has not proven the opposite.

2.5 As regards the allegation that the Bank met only with Mr O'Flaherty and not with the other candidates, the Ombudsman will not inquire further into this part of the complaint as Mr O'Flaherty's nomination was withdrawn. As regards the allegation that the Bank requested a new nomination from the Irish Minister of Finance, the Ombudsman does not find that the complainant has put forward any evidence to show that the Bank infringed any rule or principle binding upon it.

2.6 It appears therefore that the Bank acted in accordance with the rules of its Statute and principles of good administration. There is therefore no maladministration as regards this part of the complaint.

3 Conclusion

On the basis of the Ombudsman's inquiries into this complaint, there appears to have been no maladministration by the European Investment Bank. The Ombudsman therefore closes the case.

The President of the European Investment Bank will also be informed of this decision.

Yours sincerely,

 

Jacob Söderman


(1) Protocol (No A) to the Treaty establishing the European Community.