MEPs update rules to allow EU Ombudsman to serve Europeans better

The new statute provides a broader mandate for inquiries into poor administration at EU level

Photo: EP Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly during the debate in the EP on 9 June

Parliament is updating the rules on how the European Ombudsman works to provide a broader mandate for inquiries into poor administration at EU level, EP Press service reported on Tuesday. MEPs are expected to adopt a modernised statute that strengthens the office of the European Ombudsman during the plenary session on 23-24 June. Parliament negotiators reached an agreement on the rules with the Council and the Commission in May 2021 following a couple of years of political deadlock.

The European Ombudsman aims to protect the interests of people and investigates cases where an EU institution or body has allegedly acted in violation of the law or good administration practices. Cases could concern administrative irregularities, discrimination, abuse of power or failure to act.

The updated statute confirms the right of the Ombudsman to act not only on complaints, but also to conduct inquiries on its own initiative, in particular in systemic or serious cases of poor administration by EU bodies.

The rules give the Ombudsman the right to demand access to classified EU information in the course of an inquiry. Member state authorities may also be asked to share information.

The European Ombudsman is elected by the European Parliament at the start of each legislative term. In future candidates must not have been members of the European Parliament, the European Council, the European Commission or national government in the previous two years. This requirement aims to safeguard the independence of the Ombudsman.

The Lisbon Treaty sets out a special procedure for decisions on the statute of the European Ombudsman: the rules are drafted by the European Parliament, which needs to obtain the opinion of the Commission and the consent of the Council before the final vote by MEPs.

The rules have not been updated since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force in 2009. Parliament came up with a proposal in February 2019, but there was no agreement from the Council. Negotiations led to an informal accord between the institutions in May 2021 and Parliament proposed on 10 June a text in accordance with the compromise. The final plenary vote is expected on 23 June.

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