EU civil service middle of the road, Ombudsman says

24.04.06 @ 17:59

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - The European Commission is mediocre in terms of administrative efficiency, the EU Ombudsman said on Monday (24 April), with some Belgian politicians keen to introduce a "Kafka index" for Brussels.

"The commission is more or less half way along the line," Nikiforos Diamandouros said while presenting his 2005 annual report on EU red tape, explaining that old EU democracies have the highest standards with young EU democracies lagging in the east.

"The commission was established on the French model of public administration and has all the difficulties and all the advantages of this model," he added.

His office received 3,900 complaints against the EU institutions last year, with the European Commission (68%) and EU job recruitment unit EPSO (12%) attracting the most flak.

Lack of transparency and general "unfairness" were the most common gripes, but Mr Diamandouros also singled out late payment to small businesses and NGOs as potentially damaging shortcomings.

Levels of complaints grew by about 5% last year, a "normal rate of growth" compared to 2004, when rates mushroomed by 53% on the back of enlargement.

"The new member states have a large number of complaints because people are testing the system," Mr Diamandouros indicated. "There is also a culture of lack of trust in the state."

Kafka.eu?

The commission is now considering taking a leaf out of the Belgian and French approach to better public service by invoking the name of Czech author Franz Kafka, Belgian politician Vincent Van Quickenborne told EUobserver.

Mr van Quickenborne, Belgium's secretary of state in charge of administrative reform, set up the so-called Kafka index for Belgium in 2004.

The index measures how many of the government's 150 anti-red tape projects have already been achieved (82%) and provides an online forum at www.kafka.be for Belgian people to highlight bureaucratic "absurdities."

The 82 percent figure is displayed in a giant thermometer hanging beside the Belgian prime minister's office in Rue de la Loi, in the heart of the city.

French finance ministry official Jean-Francois Cope plans to introduce a similar system in France later this year, French media report, while The Hague is also showing interest in Mr van Quickenborne's model.

At the EU level, industry commissioner Gunter Verheugen is currently exploring ways to introduce a "kafka.eu" forum for complaints, the Belgian reformer said.

"Forty percent of all regulation in Europe comes out of the commission," he explained. "They should do what we are already doing in Belgium."

Mr Verheugen's staff were unable to confirm the project, but said the commission started a new drive to simplify EU regulations in early 2005 which is the same "in substance" as the Belgian idea.