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Ombudsman attacks Commission for abandoning citizenship

The European Ombudsman, Jacob Söderman, has attacked the European Commission for abandoning citizenship. Mr Söderman claims that "the Commission's recently published White Paper on governance...contains much talk, but few concrete proposals for action to benefit citizens."

Mr Söderman made his comments whilst addressing the Plenary Session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg this morning. As well as presenting his Annual Report for 2000, Mr Söderman also spoke in favour of a binding Code of Good Administrative Behaviour for EU officials in their relations with the public and of the need to change the Statute of the Ombudsman. He ended his presentation by asking the question "whatever happened to citizenship?" and criticising the Commission's lack of action in this area.

According to Mr Söderman, "[the White Paper] could have contained firm commitments to:

  • propose a law on good administrative behaviour, to ensure the rule of law and respect for citizens by the EU administration;
  • reform the way that the Commission acts as Guardian of the Treaty in order to make the procedure open, fair and understandable;
  • advise officials to use their freedom of speech actively so as to promote debate and help focus citizens' attention on European issues;
  • reinforce the legal advice service to citizens (EuroJus) in the Commission representations, thereby promoting the correct application of Community law throughout the Union.

But it does not."

Mr Söderman warned that unless the Commission gives a priority to making European citizenship a living reality, then it will not achieve the confidence of citizens. Every referendum on Europe in the last decade has shown the gulf between the rulers and the ruled. This gulf "can be bridged only slowly, by the development of European citizenship in an honest, fair and just way" according to the Ombudsman.

 

Mr Söderman's speech is available on the Internet at:
http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/speeches/en/2001-09-06.htm

 

For further information, please call Ian Harden, Head of the Legal Department, tel. +33 (0) 3 88 17 23 84.

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For further information about the Ombudsman's media activities, please contact: Ms Gundi Gadesmann, Head of communication, Tel. +32 2 284 26 09.