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European Ombudsman announces Commission rejection of his Code for officials

The European Ombudsman, Mr Jacob Söderman, today announced that the European Commission has rejected his proposal for a Code of Good Administrative Behaviour for EU officials in their relations with the public. Speaking in Tampere, Finland, on the final day of the Citizens' Agenda NGO Forum, Mr Söderman explained that while accepting the principal of such a Code, the Commission has opted to adopt a Code that would treat citizens' rights to good administration as merely "supplementary measures" needed for EU officials to give a better service. Mr Söderman stated that in his opinion, and that of the vast majority of European citizens, citizens' rights are fundamental, not supplementary measures.
The Code proposed by Mr Söderman in July 1999 was elaborated by his office on the basis of the complaints received during the first four years of Mr Söderman's mandate. By setting out exactly how officials should act in their relations with the public, Mr Söderman believed that most of the complaints against the EU institutions and bodies received so far could have been avoided had the Code been in place. The Ombudsman's draft Code is based on the principles of good administration enshrined in Community law.
Speaking in Tampere, Mr Söderman stated that he hoped that the Commission would reconsider his serious proposal:
"The Code that I proposed stated in clear terms the way that EU officials should relate to the public. In a practical set of rules, it set out what should be standard practice anyway but had never been made explicit. If adopted, it would let both citizens and EU officials know where they stand and how to act. The adoption of such a Code would be an easy way for the Commission to show that a service-minded approach has taken over.
The refusal to adopt such a Code, or a decision to adopt a vague statement of advice for its staff, will show that nothing has really changed since the collapse of the last Commission. It demonstrates the gap between the fine words pronounced by the Commission President, Romano Prodi, and the reality of the actions put into place. I hope that the Commission will re-consider its decision."

For further information, please call Mr Ben Hagard, Secretariat of the European Ombudsman, tel. + 33 (0)3 8817 2424.

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