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21st Jan 2022

EU reappoints 'fearless' Irish ombudsman

  • Emily O'Reilly became known for going after top EU officials in her past five years in office (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

MEPs have tasked Irish woman Emilly O'Reilly to hold EU institutions' feet to the fire for another five years.

"I will help ensure the EU maintains the highest standards in administration, transparency, and ethics. Europeans expect and deserve nothing less," she said after her reappointment as European Ombudsman in a vote in Strasbourg on Wednesday (18 December).

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"I will also be holding [European Commission] president [Ursula] von der Leyen to her commitments on ... transparency and ethics," O'Reilly said.

"I look forward to our first meeting," she added.

Another priority would be "tackling the lack of the transparency of EU law making by national governments in Brussels," she also said.

O'Reilly won by 320 votes out of 600 against an Estonian former judge called Julia Laffranque.

She also bulldozed out of the way a controversial Swedish candidate, industry lobbyist and former MEP Cecilia Wikström, in an earlier round of voting.

Her reappointment gives her a European Parliament mandate to keep up the kind of activism that she became well known for in the past five years.

The 62-year old former journalist took to task a top commission civil servant, a former commission president, and the head of the European Central Bank when they stepped out of line.

She also used her prerogative to launch "own initiative reports" into other "high-value issues".

"A champion for transparency, fairness, and accountability in our EU institutions. We were proud to support her today," the centre-left Socialist & Democrat group said on Wednesday.

"Delighted to see Emily O'Reilly appointed for a second term ... someone who operates without fear or favour," Ciarán Cuffe, an Irish Green MEP, also said.

Other candidates who fell by the wayside were Giuseppe Fortunato, an Italian ombudsman, and Nils Muižnieks, a Latvian former human rights inspector.

O'Reilly herself told EUobserver in a recent interview that her main targets, if reappointed, would be transparency in the EU Council and so-called 'revolving doors'.

The phrase refers to MEPs or EU officials, such as Wikström or former commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, who go to work for industry.

"I'm a practical woman, who likes to see results," she said.

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