Thursday

18th Jul 2019

EU citizens complain about lack of transparency

  • Most of the complaints concerned the European Commission (Photo: EUobserver)

Lack of transparency remained the key topic of EU citizens' complaints to the European ombudsman last year, with Maltese, Luxembourg, Cypriot and Belgian citizens having the most grumbles.

European ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros, whose job it is to deal with complaints from member state citizens concerning the European institutions, received 3,406 complaints in 2008 (up from 3,211 in 2007), with 36 percent of the cases opened concerning transparency issues, such as access to documents.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Other complaints in the ombudsman's annual report for 2008 concerned abuse of power (20%), negligence (8%) and discrimination (5%).

His office managed to close 355 of the cases throughout the year, the highest ever, with most (129) resulting in a friendly solution. But institutions were found to have behaved incorrectly in 53 cases, and the ombudsman gave a black mark to 44 of the cases closed, meaning he considered the institution not to have behaved properly.

This is down from the 55 cases closed with a critical note in 2007, but there were still "too many," says Mr Diamandouros. 'Critical notes' go down for record but do not oblige the institutions to change their practices.

Last year also saw a hike in the number of NGOs and businesses lodging complaints with the ombudsman's office, with grievances often concerning late or non-payment of bills by the institutions.

The European Commission received the most complaints (66%), deemed as "normal" by the ombudsman, as it takes the most decisions affecting EU citizens' lives. The parliament received 10 percent of complaints, while the office handling applications for EU jobs came in third, with seven percent.

Age and language discrimination

The highest number of complaints came from Germany (16%) followed by Spain and Poland (10%). But in terms of complaints relative to the size of their population, the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta clocked in at number one.

Complaints ranged from age discrimination to language discrimination and lack of transparency concerning MEPs' salaries.

A typical complaint concerned a Belgian freelance interpreter who worked for the EU institutions for over three decades but suddenly found himself out of work when he turned 65. Another involved a Spanish citizen objecting to a European-Investment-Bank-backed project for a high-speed railway in Barcelona who said that a proper environment impact assessment had not been carried out.

Mr Diamandouros said an "accountable and transparent EU administration is key to building citizens' trust in the EU."

He called on the commission to "amend its proposals to reform the legislation on public access to documents."

The European Parliament and commission are currently trying to work out a compromise on updating its 2001 transparency law.

The transparency law in practise

MEPs in March made the original commission proposal more ambitious, extending it to cover all electronic documents and requiring that officials release requested documents more quickly.

An agreement is expected later this year under the Swedish EU presidency which has promised to make transparency a priority issue.

Meanwhile, transparency pressure groups earlier this month strongly criticised an internal memo to officials working in the commission's trade unit on how to deal with the transparency rules.

The memo warned officials to be careful about what they write in emails and advised them on how to narrowly interpret requests for information.

Finland rejects call to end sponsorship of EU presidency

Appalled over Coca-Cola sponsoring the recent Romanian EU presidency, MEPs have asked Finland, the new holders of the rotating post, to put an end to such practices. But Helsinki, whose presidency is sponsored by BMW, has no such plan.

EU commission has first-ever woman president

Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday obtained a narrow majority of support in the European Parliament to become the first-ever female president of the European Commission.

Von der Leyen's final appeal to secure top EU post

European Commission presidential-hopeful Ursula von Der Leyen delivered her key appeal in the European Parliament to secure the post. Her appeal appeared to appease most of the political groups - but a lack of specifics, and opposition from Greens remain.

Poland's ex-PM loses EU parliament chair again

Poland's former prime minister, Beata Szydlo, has cried foul after failing to get an EP committee chair a second time, in a fiasco which could spell trouble for the European Commission presidency vote on Tuesday.

Anti-separatist Spanish MEPs dominate liberty committee

The European Parliament's powerful civil liberties committee (Libe) has elected anti-separatist Spanish MEPs for its chair and vice-chair positions. The issue risks complicating efforts by pro-Catalan factions to have the debate on independence raised to the EU level.

Orban ally's bid to chair EP committee in trouble

Former communication chief of the Hungary's Fidesz party, Balazs Hidvegi, wants a senior spot on the European Parliament committee working on migration and law. His nomination was delayed following a surprise decision by the centre-right EPP group.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  2. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  3. EU proposes yearly rule of law 'reports'
  4. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  5. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?
  6. Is Golden Dawn's MEP head of a criminal organisation?
  7. Finland rejects call to end sponsorship of EU presidency
  8. MH17 five years on: when will Russia be punished?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us