Summary of the decision in case 1419/2016/JN concerning statements made by a European Commissioner in relation to an on-going OLAF investigation
Closing summary - Date Tuesday | 13 December 2016
Case 1419/2016/JN - Opened on Tuesday | 13 December 2016 - Recommendation on Friday | 02 February 2018 - Decision on Tuesday | 05 June 2018 - Institution concerned European Commission (No further inquiries justified )
The Ombudsman’s inquiry related to the failure of the European Commission to take appropriate action regarding statements made by a Commissioner about an on-going investigation into alleged fraud by a Czech company (the “Stork’s Nest Case”).
The Ombudsman found that the statements by the Commissioner were unwise and inappropriate, given that she expressed a view on the behaviour of a company which was at that time under investigation by the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF). The Ombudsman asked the Commission to remind the Commissioner in question of the need to exercise due caution in future interviews.
The Commission did not share the Ombudsman’s view that the statements of the Commissioner were inappropriate. However, it did agree that, as a general rule, Commissioners should exercise caution when making public statements. It referred, in that regard, to several new safeguards in the revised Code of Conduct for Commissioners.
The Ombudsman maintains her view that the statements in question were inappropriate. However, since the Ombudsman has already put her views on the statements in question on the record, and since the revised Code of Conduct for Commissioners has addressed the systemic issues raised by the complaint, the Ombudsman considers that no further inquiries by her are justified.