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Improving the quality of European administration -European Ombudsman calls for a Code Of Good Administrative Behaviour

The European Ombudsman, Mr Jacob SÖDERMAN, wants Community institutions to adopt a code of good administrative behaviour in order to improve the quality of the Community administration. Many cases of maladministration could be avoided if clear information was available to officials about their administrative duties towards citizens, says the Ombudsman. This Ombudsman's conclusion is based on the experience of his first three years in office investigating complaints from European citizens.
According to the Ombudsman, a code of good administrative behaviour could list the general obligations of European officials. On his list of over twenty items the Ombudsman includes for example the duty to avoid discrimination and abuse of power, to be objective and impartial, to reply to correspondence in a reasonable time limit and in the language of the citizen, to give reasons for decisions and to indicate the possibilities of remedy.
In recent years, there has been a general tendency in international organisations and in the Member States to set up codes or checklists of good administrative practice. The Ombudsman refers to the recommendation that the Council of the OECD adopted this year to improve ethical conduct in public service. The International Ombudsman Institute has published a checklist of administrative fairness and the Ombudsman of Ireland an administrative ethics checklist. In France, there is a draft law of improving relations between the administration and the public, whereas in Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Portugal some administrative procedure laws with interesting provisions already exist.
The Ombudsman sent his letter about the code of good administrative behaviour to eighteen Community institutions, bodies and agencies, among them the Parliament, the Council and the Commission. He asked the institutions to inform him by the end of February 1999, whether they already have issued a code of good administrative conduct for their officials, and if not, whether they agree to take necessary steps in order to adopt one.
For further information, please call Mr Olivier VERHEECKE, Legal Officer, tel. +33 3 88 17 5346 or +32 2 284 2180

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