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European Ombudsman 'Award for Good Administration' 2021

Transcript of this video

Summary of the video

This is a video of the digital ceremony for the 2021 European Ombudsman ‘Award for Good Administration’ - where prizes in different categories were awarded to projects from EU institutions.. In the video, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers the keynote speech. Shada Islam is the moderator of the event and opens the ceremony after which European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly welcomes the audience.

Ms Islam presents the projects in the different categories and the Ombudsman announces the shortlisted projects and the winners. After receiving the prize, the winners say a few words.

The overall winners were the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations and the European External Action Service for their joint initiative repatriating EU citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The European Commission’s Directorates-General for Economic and Financial Affairs, Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, and Budget won the category ‘excellence in citizen-focused services delivery’ for their project ‘SURE thing - EU emergency money to keep people employed'.

In the category ‘excellence in communications’, the winner was the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for the project ‘Fighting African Swine Fever: forging a united front in South-East Europe - European Food Safety Authority’.

In the category ‘excellence in innovation/transformation’, the winner was the Court of Justice of the EU for its project ‘Digital Justice during the pandemic’.

The General Secretariat of the Council of the EU won the prize in the category ‘excellence in crisis management’, for ‘Ensuring business continuity during the pandemic’.

The EU staff COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund won a special award for ‘Fundraising to support the COVID-19 response’.

One of the novelties of this year’s award ceremony was an award based on a public vote. European Commission's Directorate-General for Trade won this prize with the project ‘Access2Markets - Helping small businesses trade their way to recovery’.

After all prizes were awarded, the moderator and the Ombudsman closed the event, emphasising the importance of good administration in the EU institutions.

Transcript of this video

Transcription of the video of the Award Ceremony 24 June 2021, 10-12.00

10:00

SHADA ISLAM

Hello everyone and good morning! Welcome to the third edition of the European Ombudsman Award for Good Administration! I’m Shada Islam and it is my pleasure to moderate today’s exciting ceremony. This morning we will take you through the 37 nominated projects. We will reveal the winners in the different categories and unveil the winner overall! This year, for the first time, we will also announce the winner of the public vote. But for that you will have to be a bit patient.

The project that secured the most public votes will be revealed at the very end of the ceremony!

Before we start, I’ll just like to remind you that the event is being livestreamed on twitter, YouTube and the website of the European Ombudsman.

The hashtag you have to use is #EOaward.

Now over to the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, the floor is yours.

EMILY O’REILLY

Thank you very much indeed Shada and good morning everyone and a very warm welcome from here in the European Parliament in Brussels to our third biennial presentation of the European Ombudsman Awards for Good Administration.

This is an event that my colleagues and I always greatly look forward to and I am very pleased that so many of you are joining us today from right across the EU administration.

When we set about planning the awards last year, we were unsure as to whether we would get many or indeed any entries because of the challenging circumstances in which all of you were been working. But one by one, those entries did indeed arrive and I thank you all for taking the extra time and trouble to submit so many worthy and wonderful projects.

Those projects illustrate much of the work that is directly related to the pandemic but they also highlight the depth and the breadth of your daily work that does so much to support and enhance the lives of millions of Europeans.

We are so happy to be able to showcase all of this and to shine a light on work that often is not fully recognised or acknowledged.

The nature of my work as Ombudsman inevitably implies criticism when mistakes are made or standards drop but in that monitoring of the administration I also see the wealth and the value of the work that you do day in and day out and this is our way of acknowledging that and of allowing best practice to be shared.

But while this is of course a happy and a celebratory event it is taking place against a backdrop of immense trauma and tragedy after 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Europe alone, approximately 1.2 million people have lost their life, with many more becoming seriously ill or suffering the long term aftermath of the illness and you are all aware of the economic and financial fallout of the crisis affecting so many individuals, so many individual businesses, and so many business sectors.

It is undeniable that mistakes were made and over the next few months and years we shall no doubt gain greater insight into how decisions were made when it came to handling the crisis. But that insight will be valuable only if we learn from it and do not repeat the same mistakes should another similar crisis occur. The single greatest preventative measure is good leadership at political and at administrative level and many of the initiatives showcased here today did indeed spring from exemplary leadership decisions.

The pandemic has taught us and is teaching us a lot. For me, one of the biggest lessons is just how powerful and how effective we human beings can be where there is a massive need to be effective coupled with a massive will to be effective.

The development and roll out of vaccines with unprecedented speed, unprecedented scientific collaboration and unprecedented resources is the most obvious case in point but many other initiatives were executed in ways we could never before have imagined, some of which, from an EU perspective, you will see today.

All of this should teach us to be skeptical the next time a good project, a good initiative is rejected on the grounds of resources or timescale. I believe, for example, that political will alone may be all that is currently necessary to make sure that the rest of the world receives the same level of vaccine protection as the West currently does.

Friends and colleagues, thank you once again for entering for these awards and for being with us today. And now it is my great pleasure to introduce the Commission President Madam Ursula Von der Leyen to share her thoughts on what you collectively have achieved.

Ursula Von der Leyen

Dear Ms O’Reilly, dear colleagues, I’m delighted to have this opportunity to shine a light on the good work of so many colleagues in the European Union administration and I particularly want to thank you Emily for creating this recognition of efficiency and quality standards. For over 25 years now, the work of the European Ombudsman Office has been crucial: it has helped building and maintaining public trust in our union. In your 8 years in this role, you have embodied the principles of transparency; this is highly valued by our citizens. As we merge from the health and economic crisis, you continue to fight for the effective and accountable union they deserve. When I became Commission President, I said that all EU institutions should be open and beyond reproach on ethics, transparency, and integrity. In a true partnership and exchange of use on a basis of fair inquiries and inspections, your assessment of complaints, your recommendations have helped the Commission to improve and lead the way. My Commission has shown that we are ready and willing to improve our ways of working in the 2020 Putting it right report, the Commission received 53 suggestions for improvement and we responded in a satisfactory manner to almost all of them. Because we see clear benefit to this too. Following your inquiry, we changed our practice for assessing academic qualifications of young trainees. This helps us secure talents for the European administration. On Brexit negotiations, we published over 100 documents and detailed all meetings with registered lobbyists. This full transparent conduct helped to safeguard the solidarity of the EU 27 at a time when it was never more needed. And also on your recommendation, we now apply the same transparency standards for expert groups and advisory bodies. This Award for Good Administration is a positive step to nurture such best practice. It gives recognition to the efficient and impactful work across EU institutions and bodies. I’m proud that the Commission has won the last two overall Awards. Our goal is to be a citizen centred administration. While Awards like these remind us of when we are getting it right, they also inspire us to do more and to do better. This past year has testedcolleagues to deliver quality service under complete new conditions, but the EU administration has admirably risen to the challenge. We see this in several of the nominations, not only did colleagues adapt to new circumstances or insure business continuity. They excelled: the creative solution, the thousands of COVID related decisions and legislative proposals, some of them prepared in record time. They organised EU Datahons and made open data useful for citizens. They brought relief to vulnerable people all over the world via the humanitarian air bridge. This shows that our administration is already well on the way to where we want to head with the whole of Europe. We want to come out of this crisis together: more digital, more sustainable, and more resilient. I’m sure that those watching this event on line agree and appreciate public acknowledgement of their collective achievement. The calibre of candidates nominated today is extremely high. I would like to extend my congratulations to each and every one of you. Whatever the results you are all winners in my eyes and, I am sure, for the citizens that you have served so well. Thank you for your commitment to our shared goal of good EU Administration.

Recorded speech by VdL

SHADA ISLAM

Thank you Commission President for those inspiring words.

Now let’s get down to business and showcase your projects!

The 37 nominated projects have been divided into four categories. These are:

  • Excellence in citizen-focused services delivery
  • Excellence in communications
  • Excellence in innovation and transformation and
  • Excellence in crisis management

Each project has a number which reflects the order we received them in and the projects are always listed in numerical order.

The first category is citizen-focused services delivery with 8 projects

BUMPER with name of the category

SHADA ISLAM

And the projects (Video of each project illustrating what Shada Islam is describing at the same time):

  • Number 1: EU Datathons - Making open data useful for citizens, a project developed by the EU Publications Office which manages the public portals to EU datasets.
    Datathons competitions were organised to create useful apps using the data.
    One app for instance helps to reduce water waste in farming.
  • Number 9: SURE thing! EU emergency money to keep people employed developed by DG ECFIN, DG EMPLOYMENT and DG BUDGET
    The SURE emergency fund provides Member States with loans to counter the effects of COVID-19.
    The Regulation was drawn up in just over 4 weeks and involved cooperation across several Commission departments and with Member States.
  • Project number 22: Establishing best practices for helping pandemic-hit consumers and businesses from the DG for Financial Stability and Capital Markets Union which brought together key finance and consumer organisations and drew up a list of best practices to help consumers hit by the pandemic.
    One of the ideas developed was the need to defer credit payments and allow easier access to loans.
  • Project number 24: Business continuity and innovation, occupational safety and health from the EU Agency for Health and Safety at Work
    The Agency provided guidance and videos on how to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.
    It used innovative practices internally for dealing with the pandemic including paperless workflows & video conferences to enable remote working.
  • Project 25: Giving civil society a say on the green transition from the European Economic and Social Committee & DG ENVIRONMENT
    They created an Online forum for an exchange of ideas on the green transition.
    They brought together public authorities, consumers, businesses, academia and organised an annual conference and held regular smaller events.
  • Project number 26: eTranslation - bringing a multilingual EU to citizens from DG Translation and DG Connect who integrated a neural machine translation service into EU websites.
    Which were also made available for SMEs in Europe.
    And so the etranslation team brought the EU closer to citizens.
  • Project number 32: Access2Markets - Helping small businesses trade their way to recovery submitted by DG Trade which set up a free multilingual website explaining EU import and export rules to companies.
    The website was tailored to the interests of SMEs, and there was a special promotion campaign to raise awareness about the website.
  • Project number 33: B-solutions: Cross-border problem solving for border regions developed by DG Regio
    We know that cross-border workers often face legal and administrative obstacles and DG Regio works with local authorities to facilitate interaction in border regions.
    43 initiatives had been undertaken by January 2021, to make cross-border interactions easier.

Now I will hand over to the Ombudsman to announce the shortlist, Emily,

BUMPER - pause to allow EMILY O’REILLY to enter screen

EMILY O’REILLY

Thank you very much Shada. Well the short-listed of projects for the citizen-focused services delivery category are:

  • Project number 1: EU datathons Making open data useful for citizens by the Publications Office.
  • Project number 9: SURE thing! EU emergency money to keep people employed by DG ECFIN, DG EMPLOYMENT and DG BUDGET
  • And Project number 25: Giving civil society a say on green transition by the European Economic and Social Committee & DG Environment.

So congratulations on those who have been shortlisted and the winner in this category is:

  • Project 9: SURE thing! EU emergency money to keep people employed by DG ECFIN, EMPLOYMENT and BUDGET

So, Gilles Mourre is the spokesperson for the project. Congratulations Gilles, congratulations! Let’s watch a short video of the project

VIDEO LINK

Gilles, many, many congratulations to you and to your team. I know that this was an initiative that was incredibly important to so many people and to their families right across Europe. And I think the thing that most people comment on it is, how speedily it was done. Just give us a sense of the challenges that were there at the very start.

GILLES MOURRE

On behalf of the whole team (and you can see a sample here in this room), we are very pleased and honoured to receive this prize, which reflects a true team work led by DG ECFIN but also involving DG BUDG and DG Employment, the Legal Service and the Sec Gen. Let me tell you a very short story. 15 months ago, in March 2020, our lives were upset by the pandemic and the urgent containment measures to curb the upsurge of COVID cases and deaths. Our economy contracted massively, much more than during the great financial crisis 10 years ago. But our economy held on, did not melt down and this was largely because firms retained their employees and the self-employed stayed in business, waiting for the recovery. And they did so because of the large use of short and long schemes and similar measures by Member states, promoted, supported and facilitated by SURE. SURE has been, did, a true European success story. The EU acted as a second line of defense to Member states protect their citizens. The figures are dazzling, I think SURE has helped between 25 million and 30 million (of citizens), of which 5 million self-employed, protecting them against unemployment at the peak of the crisis. And as a result, the increase of unemployment in Europe has been very limited during the top of the crisis, compared to the US for instance. SURE has also supported around 2 million firms in Europe, and I mean more precisely the 19 countries who benefited from SURE. Also a success story, which shows the capacity of the EU who acted very quickly, timely and in a spirit of solidarity. Let’s remember, in the second week of March 2020 we were all put in lockdown. Five weeks later, the Commission put a legislative proposal on SURE on the table, which was endorsed by the Council six weeks later. All Members states, all of them, even those who did not benefit from SURE supported the instrument and concretely by voluntarily providing  guarantees, helping the all schemes possible. Moreover, the new instrument was implemented by all the services I mentioned in no time and operationalised in no time to merge with the gravity of the emergency. I mean, let’s also recall that the instrument turned to be very popular among the EU Member States and the financial market. The fire power of this instrument was used almost to the full, covering 19 Member states, 2 waves of pandemics, 95 billion as an amount close to the maximum amount of 100 billion. And the story is not over, there is still 6 billion left. So we are very honoured and pleased to receive this prize. We want to thank the Ombudsman for organising this ceremony and on behalf of all the team, I thank you all again for this award, thank you very much.

SHADA ISLAM

Thank you very much Gilles and congratulations again. And now let’s go to the next category.

BUMPER

The excellence in communications category has 10 projects (video of each project illustrating what Shada Islam is describing at the same time):

  • Project 2: Demystifying the Brussels bubble developed by Lucia Kleštincová, a staff member in DG GROW
    Lucia worked to spotlight the human side to communicating about the EU. She did this over 50 interviews for her popular ‘Lights on Europe’ podcast, which documented the every-day experiences of EU officials. For example, she asked them about any prejudices they might have faced; or whether they have unusual experiences.
  • Project number 4: Keeping people informed of their privacy rights in a digital age from the European Data Protection Supervisor.
    TechDispatch, a regular EDPS report assesses the impact of new technologies on privacy. It is available on the EDPS website and is part of EDPS’ overall aim to keep the public well informed
  • Project number 12: Telling the EU’s story decade by decade from DG REGIO
    These are fun videos which recount how the EU was built decade by decade. The Actors in the videos are actually DG REGIO staff members. The videos are available in all EU languages and are of course a big hit on social media
  • Project number 13: Fighting African Swine Fever, forging an united front in South East Europe submitted by the European Food Safety Authority which created a 2020 campaign to raise awareness about African Swine Fever and its potentially devastating effects on farmers livelihoods.
    The campaign targeted farmers and hunters in South Eastern Europe where the disease is a risk of spreading. The decentralised campaign - across 9 countries used localised content and local influencers.
  • Project number 15: DingDongEU - Ready for the Green Challenge? from DG REGIO
    15 influencers were sent on green journeys in Belgium, Germany, Greece, Lithuania and Portugal. They visited (physically or virtually) over 70 sustainable projects to raise awareness about EU support for local sustainability initiatives. The Campaign reached almost 10 million young Europeans on social media.
  • Project number 19: #your EU right modern communications for a young audience developed by DG JUST
    to raise awareness about consumer rights among 18-35 year olds.
    It focused on 10 countries, which were chosen for their low awareness of consumer rights. The Campaign with events and influencers - reached 320 million people
  • Project number 20: Puntoycoma, the must-read quarterly journal developed by Spanish language translators on translation-related matters.
    The journal provides a Forum for Spanish EU translators and other actors in the field of translation and includes articles written by linguists in EU institutions and by academics.
    It has around 2000 subscribers.
  • Project number 21: Bringing the LGBTIQ equality strategy to new audiences developed by DG JUST which used national celebrities and influencers to help publicise the European Commission’s LGBTIQ strategy.
    The DG JUST team provided visuals and key hashtags and this resulted in in a much wider audience and positive reaction to strategy.
  • Project number 30: Showing how the EU helps during disasters from DG ECHO which sprang into action after the devastating explosions in Beirut last year.
    Two regional information officers coordinated communication, they explained the EU’s actions on the ground, including humanitarian aid and their hard work helped to show how the EU can help in such situations.
  • Project number 34: Video on evacuation procedures for EU buildings developed by the European Parliament:
    It explains how to leave EU buildings in an emergency. It is humourous and easy to understand and applies to the European Parliament, the Council and European Council buildings.

Now I will hand over to the Ombudsman to announce the shortlist.

BUMPER

EMILY O’REILLY

Thank you Shada and the short-listed projects for the communications category are:

  • Project number 13: Fighting African Swine Fever - forging an united front in South East Europe by the European Food Safety Authority
  • Project number 15: DingDongEU - Ready for the green challenge? by DG REGIO
  • Project number 19:  #yourEUright - Modern communications for a young audience by DG JUST

Congratulations to all the short listed and the winner in this category is:

  • Project 13: Fighting African Swine Fever - forging an united front in South East Europe by the European Food Safety Authority.

SHADA ISLAM

Francesco Matteucci is the spokesperson for this project. Welcome! Congratulations on your win!

Let’s watch a video of the winner.

VIDEO LINK

EMILY O’REILLY

Many, many congratulations on your win, very well deserved. I imagine that, in these regions, there are very deeply embedded cultures and traditions related to agriculture and to haunting. So, was that part of the reason why you decided to use local influencers and local media to get your messages out?

SHADA ISLAM

Will you please unmute? We cannot hear you. Please unmute yourself. We are not getting the sound. Congratulations, we will try and come back to you but apologies, you have not been able to say anything now, but you will receive an Award.

Now let’s move to the next category.

The excellence in innovation and transformation category has 8 projects (video of each project illustrating what Shada Islam is describing at the same time):

  • Project number 5: Helping people track what happens to their private data from the European Data Protection Supervisor which developed the website evidence collector, an open source software tool which checks what websites do with people’s data; It allows website users to understand what information is being transferred or stored during their visit and the tool can be downloaded from the EDPS website.
  • Project number 7: Turning the EP carbon neutral by 2030 developed by the European Parliament, a policy department and the eco-management unit in the EP drew up a report on how to make the EP carbon neutral by 2030.
    It analyses the current situations and sets short to long-term goals. The proposed measures include virtual tours for visitor groups and investing in energy positive buildings.
  • Project number 11: From boardroom to broadband: the new world of online meetings developed by the European Food Safety Authority
    EFSA’s ‘digital first’ approach allowed it to keep engaged with stakeholders throughout the pandemic. The approach reduced costs and the carbon footprint and increased outreach to stakeholders.
    In 2019, 48% of meetings were digital – and in 2020, the number had risen to 91%.
  • Project number 14: Challenges for food safety driven by climate change submitted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which gathered information from a range of sources on what climate change could mean for food safety.
    The data was put together in a report aimed at both the general public and experts.
    EFSA worked with several international organisations, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • Project number 16: Using artificial intelligence to serve a multilingual EU developed by the European Union Intellectual Property Office and the Translation Centre.
    Together they worked on how to use Artificial Intelligence for multilingualism in the EU institutions.
    The new services, speech to text technology, that they developed are now in being used and this has of course helped expand possibilities for multilingual communication with the public.
  • Project number 31: Coordinating the response of EU agencies to the COVID-19 crisis developed by the EU Agencies Network.
    This voluntary network of agencies set up an advisory group to share best practices and coordinate on how to respond to COVID-19. The initiative involved all members working individually or in clusters to provide a sustainable response to the pandemic.
  • Project number 35: Digital justice during the pandemic submitted by the European Court of Justice.
    The court introduced a remote hearing system to allow court hearings to continue during the pandemic.
    A video-conference system allowed lawyers to make depositions securely.
    It was launched in May 2020 and by January 2021, over 100 hearings have been conducted using this system.
  • Project number 37: Fundraising to support the COVID-19 response from an internal EU staff group which set up a COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, based on donations from staff.
    This Fund was set up with the King Baudouin Foundation. After 8 months, half a million Euros were raised to support projects in 9 EU countries.

SHADA ISLAM

Now I will hand over to the Ombudsman to announce the shortlist.

EMILY O’REILLY

Thank you very much again Shada and the short-listed projects for the innovation and transformation category are:

  • Project number 5: Helping people track what happens to their private data - by the European Data Protection Supervisor.
  • Project number 16: Using artificial intelligence to serve a multilingual EU by the Intellection Property Office and the Translation Centre.
  • and Project number 35: Digital justice during the pandemic by the European Court of Justice-

Congratulations to all who have been shortlisted and the winner in this category is:

  • Project 35: Digital justice during the pandemic by the European Court of Justice

SHADA ISLAM

The spokesperson for the European Court of Justice project is Arnaud BOHLER. Congratulations Arnaud! and now let’s watch the winner’s video.

VIDEO LINK

EMILY O’REILLY

Many congratulations Arnaud, I imagine that the European Court of Justice has contingency plans for many things, but did you ever imagine or did you ever plan for a situation such as the one that we have all experienced over the last 15 months?

ARNAUD BOHLER

Well, we didn’t really plan such a situation, but what is remarkable is the fact that we could manage to react very quickly to this unique situation. After 2 months of lockdown, for justice to be continued to be done it was necessary to reopen the court rooms. This could be done in compliance with very strict sanitary protocols but it was necessary, but not enough, because the representatives of the parties could sometimes simply not travel to Luxembourg and be there in the court room. So we had to find a solution to let them forward all arguments in the court room without having them physically in Luxembourg and our main Visio conference system and one we use today could not respond to the peculiar requirements of our traditional proceedings. The system to put in place had to be perfectly stable in order to ensure the rights of the defence, it had to be totally secure and have to support simultaneous interpretation potentially from and towards 24 official languages. This unique system was designed with internal resources; our colleagues from the registries, the IT, building and security, and interpretation directorates provided the Court of Justice and the General Court with a technical and human expertise that allowed preserving the fundamental rights to an ethic judicial protection and the multilingual access to EU judiciary.

We are extremely glad, grateful and proud that this collective achievement is acknowledged and rewarded by this prize today. It is an honour for the Court and for the colleagues who made this possible. On behalf of the Registrar of the Court of Justice of the European Union and of the Hearing taskforce I wish to express my warmest thanks and my gratitude to you, Ms O’Reilly, for this prestigious award, thank you!

SHADA ISLAM

Thank you very much Arnaud and congratulations again. Now, let’s go to the next category.

The excellence in crisis management category has 11 projects (video of each project illustrating what Shada Islam is describing at the same time):

  • Project number 3: Adapting the EC’s traineeship programme to crisis times sent in by DG Education and Culture.
    The Bluebook trainee scheme was overhauled to adapt to the pandemic.
    So Traineeships starting in March 2020 were extended by 5 months, and trainees were allowed to work from home countries. 1 000 trainees were welcomed using digital onboarding in autumn.
  • Project number 6: The EP’s transport unit – a lesson in adapting to crisis – submitted by the European Parliament.
    The Parliament’s transport unit overhauled its practices in order to keep drivers and MEPs safe during COVID-19. Measures they adopted included reducing the number of seats in the vehicle, and putting Plexiglas between the driver and the passengers.
    Drivers also volunteered to deliver meals and unsold food to charities.
  • Project number 8: Ensuring business continuity during the pandemic developed by the Council.
    In fact, the Council’s Security Strategy and Business Continuity Unit helped other EU institutions and bodies to deal with effects of COVID-19 in the workplace. It shared insight on how to manage contact tracing, how to communicate with staff and how to ensure staff well-being. Its help was of course highly appreciated by the other EU institutions.
  • Project number 10: A big heart for small businesses developed by the European Union Intellectual Property Office which set up a rapid response mechanism to help SMEs recover from the pandemic and its impact.
    Measures included access to free intellectual property support; and an easy tool for applying for trade mark registration. Around 360 SMEs from over 14 countries have benefitted from this initiative.
  • Project number 17: Ensuring speed and accountability in the EU’s response to COVID-19 from DG REGIO, EMPLOYMENT, MARE and AGRICULTURE.
    Two legislative proposals were prepared in record time for the Corona Response Investment Initiative.
    A Rapid response team was set up to answer Member States’ questions on EU money to combat the crisis and a ‘Coronavirus dashboard’ showed how money was actually being spent.
  • Project number 18: Watching each other’s back - helping staff deal with COVID-19 developed by the European Parliament.
    The EP’s personnel directorate implemented a support programme to help staff dealing with psychological issues arising from COVID-19.
    Support included a helpline with trained counsellors and the Baseline philosophy was: ‘it’s ok not to be ok’.
  • Project number 23: Bringing stranded EU citizens home developed by the European External Action Service
    Travels restrictions taken during the pandemic left over 600,000 EU citizens stranded abroad in early 2020.
    As part of its efforts to bring people home, the EEAS helped keep airspaces open, got visas
  • extended, and provided EU funding for 270 flights.
    A special EEAS crisis taskforce operated 24/7.
  • Project number 27: Bringing citizens home during the pandemic submitted by DG ECHO.
    In an action coordinated by DG ECHO, over 100,000 stranded people were brought back to the EU
    Members of the A1 Unit staffed the emergency response centre. 23 Member States requested repatriation assistance and the action involved over 400 flights.
  • Project number 28 rescEU: medical stockpile: protecting our first responders developed by DG ECHO.
    The A2 Unit in DG ECHO created and managed a stockpile of personal protective equipment.
    It meant grant agreements with partners in nine Member States.
    Around 1.3 million masks went to first responders in Italy, Croatia, Spain, Lithuania and other countries and 30 ventilators went to Czechia.
  • Project number 29: Humanitarian Air Bridge bringing relief during the coronavirus pandemic from DG ECHO.
    Unit C4 of DG ECHO set up a humanitarian air bridge of EU flights bringing aid to vulnerable people.
    The countries most in need were identified by Member States and aid partners.
    From May-Oct 2020, 67 flights transported more than 1,150 tonnes of vital supplies to 20 countries
  • Project number 36: Coordinating the EU response to the COVID-19 crisis submitted by the Emergency Response Coordination Centre in the European Commission.
    The ERCC provided coordinating and operational support to the crisis response to the EU.
    It helped repatriate EU citizens from Wuhan in China and also helped repatriate around 100,000 Europeans stranded abroad.
    It helped match requests for assistance with offers of assistance from within the EU and beyond and it helped coordinate the delivery of COVID-19 assistance to developing countries.

I will now hand over to the Ombudsman to announce the shortlist

BUMPER

EMILY O’REILLY

And the short-listed projects for the crisis management category are:

  • Project number 8 - Ensuring business continuity during the pandemic by the Council.
  • Project number 10 - A big heart for small businesses - The European Union Intellectual Property Office.
  • Project number 17 - Ensuring speed and accountability in the EU’s response to COVID-19 from DG REGIO, EMPLOYMENT, MARE and AGRICULTURE.

Congratulations to all three. And the winner in this category is:

PAUSE

  • Project number 8: Ensuring business continuity during the pandemic by the Council

Let us speak to the spokesperson for the project, he is going to join us very soon. Congratulations on your win. Let’s watch a video of the winner.

VIDEO LINK

Many congratulations, Denis, and to your team. I think you should be particularly flattered that it was other institutions that nominated you for this Award, so you obviously did a very good job that impressed all of them. Obviously (it was) a very, very challenging task. Just give us a bit of an insight into the beginning of the crisis and how it was that you strategized to help the colleagues in this way.

DENIS

Thank you very much, Emily. Yes, indeed, we are very, very proud of being nominated not by ourselves but by other colleagues. I have to say we only thought we were doing our own jobs and we were very surprised and absolutely humbled that our counterparts in other institutions and agencies thought we had merited an award for the work we were doing.

We reacted the same way as everybody else did at the beginning of the pandemic. We looked at our business continuity plans and thought about what we need to do now, what we need to change now to make our work and the work of our colleagues for the citizen possible, going ahead.

The only thing that we did that was outside the normal was that we had the reflex of sharing our thoughts and those of our colleagues with our counterparts in the other offices, bodies and agencies. And I hope that having that reflex helped and inspired some of our colleagues to make their business continuity planning actions also successful during the pandemic.

It is a great honour, thank you very much; we are very surprised and delighted to receive this award. Thank you.

SHADA ISLAM

Thank you. Congratulations again, we are delighted as well.

Now, this was the last of the specific category prizes.

Before we turn to the overall winner of the European Ombudsman 2021 Award for Good Administration, I would like to introduce you to the three members of the jury who went through all of your projects so carefully. They are: Chris Docksey, chair of the board and EDPS Honorary Director-General.

Oh, I am being told that the Jury members are not there, at the moment.

So I think we shall continue on with our ceremony. Do we know if they will be joining us soon or should we just move on now? I think we should... yes, move on, ok.

So, let us now go to another video which will be about this year’s Award for good administration, so let’s have a bumper now and then I will turn the floor to Emily.

BUMPER

EMILY O’REILLY

Well, I would also like to extend my thanks to the board for all of their time and their enthusiasm in helping us to deal with this award. Your help was greatly appreciated.

Now it is my great pleasure to announce the winner of this year’s overall Award for Good Administration. This video will reveal all!

VIDEO LINK

EMILY O’REILLY

Well, as we saw in the video, the winning projects are:

Project 23 and project 27, which were both about bringing European citizens home during the pandemic and were carried out, executed by the External Action Service and DG ECHO.

We chose to give the overall award to these two projects jointly because of the extraordinary efforts that staff in those teams went to in order to bring stranded people home. They showed what a well-working and motivated public administration can achieve.

And they showed, in the most concrete way possible, what it means to be a citizen of the European Union.

SHADA ISLAM

So let’s now turn to the spokesmen for these 2 projects, who are joining us. There we are. Emily:

EMILY O’REILLY

Many, many congratulations. An incredible achievement, a joint Award, bringing European citizens home at a time of great panic, great crisis. I am not sure what contingency plan you could possibly have had at the time, but give us a sense of the feeling, the atmosphere at the time. Obviously, 23 Member States were in touch with you, trying to get their citizens home. Was it panic or was it very calm?

PALOMA ADARVE (Paloma ADARVE is spokesperson for the ECHO project.)

Yes. Actually, well, first, I have to thank my colleagues; we are here in the Emergency Response Coordination Center. This is, as you mention, a coordinated effort not only from DG ECHO, the Commission, but also with the EEAS and I want to thank everyone that collaborated and cooperated to manage to success in this endeavour that we had during the crisis.

It felt very, very difficult to be honest because for everyone, you know, it was a very difficult situation. Personally, for everyone, we had to change our way of living. We had to stop many of the activities that made us happy at that time. And moreover here at the crisis center we had to deal with the biggest emergency that we ever had to deal with. So at that time we were learning new ways of working. At the same time, we really had to deliver.

So it felt hard but we are very happy because we managed and we think that we did it very well. And yes, we are happy that in the end we could deliver to the EU citizens the best of our capacities, all our commitment and our motivation.

SHADA ISLAM

Now I had seen that Mr Stefano Sannino was joining but I do not think he is there. There is a problem with the connections. So let s move on. You might be thinking: that’s it! But it’s not over yet! Let me hand back to the Ombudsman:

EMILY O’REILLY

We have chosen to give a special award to one particular project - a project that goes beyond all of the categories because it is about EU staff doing something in addition to the day job, for solidarity.

So I am delighted to give the special award to:

PAUSE

  • Project number 37: Fundraising to support the COVID-19 response - the EU staff for climate group that became the EU staff COVID-19 Solidarity Response fund.

SHADA ISLAM

Bruno Mola is the spokesman for this group. Congratulations on your win!

BRUNO MOLA

Thank you very much. It is an honour.

EMILY O’REILLY

Bruno, many congratulations. I know we said at the beginning that I think that half a million euro have been raised, but I think that at this stage the numbers have gone way up so

Were you inspired, what inspired you to do it at the first place, were you surprised at the response, and what was the motivation to link it to the king Baudoin fund?

BRUNO MOLA

Yes, well the initial motivation was very thick with colleagues we were feeling, it was the main feeling among colleagues when the crisis struck, we were doing a lot professionally but we also felt the urge to do something more on personal grounds.

When you are in a crisis it is when the communities need to get together when those who have the possibility to support those who struggle, it is the sense of the community, it is even a sort of social model if you want. Otherwise, it was a kind of natural push from our side many colleagues were sharing it and many colleagues were already donating. But we also realised it would have been good to have a visible and unique sign of our solidarity we could offer a value added which respect to what the different fundraises and the different issues that colleagues were ready to supporting, so having something that could be directly linked to the EU staff solidarity because we work for the citizens and we want to have a direct link and communication with them; and then, on the other hand, also trying to do something extra that without institution we cannot do, which is essentially supporting those smaller organisations on the ground that are touching niche needs of those who fall out of the normal institution on safety nets and I might talk about those who work in black or in informal economy or all the marginalised groups that do not have access to general support tools; and King Baudoin foundation helped us in this because they have a network of the European foundations, they know the realities on the ground, they are able to scan the needs on the ground, identify small organisations that are reliable which could benefit from our support and this is the way we have worked until now. We carry on working because one thing that must be said is that important number of colleagues have established a monthly donation of a percentage of their salary which means that we were able to reach about 650.000 euro collected now. And we aim to continue all along the recovery phase.

SHADA ISLAM

Thanks you very much. Now, let’s watch the Video of the winning Special prize.

VIDEO LINK

And now for the very final winner!

BUMPER

EMILY O’REILLY

Well, for the first time this year, all of your projects were put up for a public vote so that more people could see the range of work that you do.

We were delighted by the response.

There were more than 6 000 votes cast.

  • In 3rd place is Project 26 - eTranslation - bringing a multilingual EU to citizens by DG Translation and DG Connect
  • In 2nd place is Project 20 - Puntoycoma: the most read, the must-read journal by Spanish language translators  
  • In the number one public spot is Project number 32- Access2Markets - Helping small businesses trade their way to recovery by DG TRADE.

SHADA ISLAM

The spokesperson for this project is Peter Sandler. Congratulations on scooping up this prize!

Let me now get the video of the project.

VIDEO LINK

EMILY O’REILLY

Many congratulations Peter on winning our first ever public vote congratulations to you and to your team. Obviously, we have all been very aware of the huge stress that has been placed on small and medium size businesses right across Europe and I can imagine there were huge demand made on you and on your team. So what was your thinking what was your strategizing in relation to this from the very start and also I assume a lot of your colleagues and staff for working from home so there were additional challenge I supposed there.

PETER SANDLER

Well first of all thank you very much indeed to all and I’m thrilled and honoured to receive this prize, particularly in such a difficult year in terms of COVID and when there are so many excellent projects which have been set on this morning. I think, for us, this project, and it’s a project which has been in preparation for a couple of years, and before the COVID crisis, is really about finding ways to share information and help businesses make the most out of the network trade agreement that the European Union has put in place, and for small business in particular this is often the challenge of finding out what these agreements are about, finding out how they can make best use of them and the website we’ve created the platform access to market certainly does that; it does that for free, it does that with much the information available in all EU languages and it’s a proven success in the sense that since its launch, last autumn, we have had more than a million people visiting and using the site. And I think given the situation with COVID – the need for recovery – it becomes all the more important they have been able to do so.

Of course this has been a team effort involving many parts of the DG, involving external consultants but it’s also something we have built hand-in-hand with industry bottom up, testing the information, checking words and ensuring that we have a product that really meets the needs of businesses all across Europe and in a way it’s a good example of Europe at its best doing simple practical things which can really work and produce useful solutions.

SHADA ISLAM

Thank you very much indeed Peter, absolutely right Europe at his best.

So friends, we are now reaching the end of this wonderful inspiring ceremony but before we go I think I’m going to ask you a few more questions Emily! I know you spoke at the start and you laid out your vision and you talked about the problems and you know the challenges that the pandemic brought, what in this ceremony did you find that really inspired you?

Well I think as always, it was hugely uplifting and I think it is particularly wonderful that other colleagues get to know what, going on and all the different parts of the EU administration, I mean look, we can’t deny as I said at the beginning that mistakes were made, but look at all the fantastic work that was done as well that meant so much to people. And over the last while, I have been talking to my colleagues the network of ombudsmen and always ask them: how did Europe feature in the lives of the people that you served and I remember one in particular the SURE fund project that indeed one of which that we saw here and it was the first time that Europeans really felt citizens in their country really felt European in their life of course Europe has been in their life for a very long time but they got a really strong tangible sense of it and I think it is as just Peter said these practical things the people really feel in their lives and that are important so as ever I think it has been an inspiring event and I thank you and I thank my wonderful colleagues in communications, I thank this fantastic team in the European Parliament here, lot’s of moving parts, to get right a few little hiccups but overall a great ceremony and thank you all so much.

SHADA ISLAM

But before I let you go, just remind us why you set up the Award Ceremony for Good Administration in the first place?

EMILY O’REILLY

Well there were a number of reasons, I think it was actually partly inspired by Brexit, believe it or not, because you know the Europe is coming in a lot of criticism and a sort of the creation of a caricature a stereotype that I knew was not valid, so partly it was that; it was also because I was aware that Europe does many wonderful things that people don’t know about so let’s find the space to try and showcase that; but it’s also doing the day job because my overall role is trying to help the administration to improve its standards so this is a way of doing that and I think what I’ve noticed of the last few addition of this is how first of all how happy people are to be told you’ve done a great job, we saw that on some of the faces today, which is great but also again you know people really get a sense of the work in the EU institutions of the range and the breadth of what is done and if we can contribute to showcasing that great work in this way then I’m really happy and proud to be able to do it along with my colleagues.

SHADA ISLAM

And so much collaboration across departments, amongst Member states that ...

EMILY O’REILLY

Yes, absolutely, fantastic, and also when you saw one of the Award there it was the other institutions that wanted to say well done to reach out and I think you know even in my own office I think people have talked about the great level of communication, the great level of collaboration, and I think people have noticed that it is just not good for us but it’s good for the work that we do and ultimately for the citizens and I hope it continues.

SHADA ISLAM

Absolutely we’ve adapted haven’t we? Emily, now you can say your thanks

EMILY O’REILLY

Well yes thank you, well I thank you all on the double, we are a small office as I said just 70 people and doing an event like this is obviously quite a big deal but I have a wonderful communication team led by the wonderful Gundi Gadesmann along with her colleagues Honor and Enrico, I won’t name them all who’ve done a fantastic job under very challenging circumstances, I thank the advisory board, I thank you Shada as ever for doing this, I think you enjoyed it as well and once again to this great team who were so calm and who helped us amateurs through this great project, so thank you all and thank you to the colleagues and above all thank you to everybody who entered this Award.

Absolutely, and so that’s it from me as well friends, thank you so much for attending, for your application, for your projects, it has been an honour and I have to say inspiration to present this ceremony. Take care everyone and stay safe! Good bye!