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EO express 04/2022

The EO express brings you an overview of the European Ombudsman’s recent activities, including inquiry openings, key findings, speeches and events. Subscribe here if you want to get the EO express - published six times a year - in your mailbox.

RECENT INQUIRY DEVELOPMENTS

New public consultation on transparency in EU environmental decision making

The Ombudsman has launched a public consultation to assess participation and transparency in EU decision making related to the environment. The aim is to evaluate whether citizens have access to the up-to-date information they need to exercise democratic scrutiny when it comes to EU rules for protecting the environment and combatting climate change. Questions in the consultation seek to find out how easily the public can obtain documents or information related to the environment and how to better involve citizens in the preparation and implementation of green policies. The public consultation is available in all 24 EU languages and runs until 15 December 2022.


Ombudsman asks European Central Bank to apply stricter rules to moves by staff to private sector

Following an inquiry into how the European Central Bank (ECB) handles ‘revolving doors’, the Ombudsman has asked the institution to take a more robust approach to managing staff moves to the private sector, and in particular to the financial sector. The Ombudsman suggested that the ECB better monitor the compliance of ex-staff with their ethics obligations, ban former senior staff from lobbying their past colleagues for one year, and subject more staff to stricter ‘cooling-off’ requirements. The Ombudsman's inquiry reviewed revolving doors files from 2020 and 2021.


Transparency of the Recovery and Resilience Facility — Ombudsman asks Commission for additional information

The Ombudsman has written to the European Commission for more information about how it ensures transparency and accountability in relation to the use of EU funds meant to help Member States recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter follows-up on the Commission’s reply to the Ombudsman’s inquiry into the €700 billion Recovery and Resilience Facility, with the Ombudsman’s additional questions focused on audit mechanisms, the publishing obligations of Member States, and the nature of documents already released by the Commission.


Ombudsman welcomes court ruling on access to documents concerning pesticide risk to bees

The Ombudsman has welcomed the Court of Justice of the European Union’s ruling that the Commission should grant access to documents concerning Member State positions on guidance assessing the risk of pesticides to bees. The Ombudsman had earlier come to the same conclusion and found maladministration on the part of the Commission following a complaint from a French civil society group.


AWARD FOR GOOD ADMINISTRATION 2023

Ombudsman launches fourth edition of the Good Administration Award

The fourth edition of the Ombudsman’s Good Administration Award is open for nominations. The award recognises actions by the EU public service that have had a visible and positive impact on the lives of citizens. It is open to all EU institutions, offices, agencies, and bodies. Individuals, teams, or units can be put forward as candidates, or may put themselves forward until 31 January 2023. Submissions should relate to projects carried out during the period January 2021 to December 2022. The previous edition of the award saw the overall prize go to the European Commission’s department for Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (DG ECHO) and the European External Action Service (EEAS) for their efforts to repatriate EU citizens stranded abroad during the pandemic.


SPEECHES

Current trends and major development in ethics, lobbying and revolving doors practices

‘Left alone, the tiny holes that appear in the fabric of the democratic and institutional cloth may eventually rip it apart. My work as European Ombudsman, charged with oversight of the EU administration, is precisely to identify and attempt to mend those small holes before the fabric rips.’

Full speech of European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly to Georgetown University in Washington D.C.


Transparency vital to promoting public trust, Ombudsman tells Parliament COVID-19 committee

During a meeting of the European Parliament’s Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Ombudsman stressed that transparency is vital in enabling trust when it comes to public health measures and the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. She brought up a number of COVID-19 related issues such as ensuring that remote meetings with lobbyists are recorded and published, the fact that the ECDC’s doesn’t currently have an independent capacity to collect data, and the Commission’s refusal to conduct a comprehensive search for text messages between its President and the CEO of a pharmaceutical firm concerning COVID-19 vaccines.

See the Ombudsman’s complete remarks


Ensuring respect for human rights in trade agreements

Speaking to the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights, the Ombudsman described the results of her strategic initiative on ensuring respect for human rights in international trade agreements. She suggested the Commission should set up a separate complaint-handling portal for alleged human rights abuses. It should also examine how to ensure this portal is accessible to civil society organisations and other stakeholders based in countries with which the EU has trade agreements.


EUROPEAN NETWORK OF OMBUDSMEN EXPANDS

Ukraine and Moldova join the European Network of Ombudsmen

The Ombudsman has welcomed the addition of Ukraine and Moldova into the European Network of Ombudsmen. Coordinated by the European Ombudsman, the network provides a place for ombudsmen and similar bodies from across Europe to exchange information on EU law and policy, and to share best practice. The European Ombudsman also plans to work with the two countries through the network to help them on their EU accession paths.