Thursday

23rd May 2019

Growing support for Greek ombudsman candidate

As the election for the next European Ombudsman enters its first round in the European Parliament in Strasbourg today, three of the Parliament's political groups look set to support Greek candidate, Nikiforis Diamandouros.

The decision by the Socialists, Liberals and Greens to give their backing to the Greek national ombudsman, puts further pressure on the second favourite in the race, UK Conservative MEP, Roy Perry, who has secured the majority of EPP votes.

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Five candidates now remain in the Ombudsman election. Following last-minute decisions by Greek and Spanish candidates, Georgios Anastassopoulos and Xabier Marchiegi, to pull out of the contest, two Belgians, Pierre-Yyes Monette and Herman Wuyts, an Italian, Giuseppe Fortunato, the Greek national ombudsman, Nikiforos Diamandouros, and UK Conservative MEP, Roy Perry now remain.

Mr Diamandouros and Mr Perry have emerged as the two favourites having secured the backing of the Parliament’s two largest groups, the Socialists and the centre right European People’s Party (EPP) respectively.

EPP leader, Hans-Gert Pöttering, quashed rumours yesterday that German and French MEPs may be unwilling to support a UK Conservative for the position by calling on all group members to support the candidature of Roy Perry.

Mr Perry faced tough questions from Socialist group members in a debate organised on Monday by the Campaign for Parliament Reform, as to why an elected politician should be eligible for the post. "I would resolutely maintain the neutrality and objectivity the post requires," replied Mr Perry, referring to his close co-operation with current Ombudsman, Jacob Söderman, and his work on the Parliament’s Petitions Committee.

Nevertheless, the Socialist group has already thrown its weight behind Greek national ombudsman, Nikiforos Diamandouros. "At the beginning of this process we took a clear decision that the election of the new Ombudsman should not be a political contest and that our support for any particular candidate would be on the basis of competence and experience," said Enrique Baron, leader of the Socialist group.

The Liberal group also supports the view that an experienced ombudsman should take over the position. While stressing that all candidates had strong credentials for the job, Graham Watson, the Liberal group leader, said the group "did not believe that it is ideal for someone from the institutions to take the job."

The Green group is also reported to be in favour of voting for a candidate with ombudsman experience and the position of Parliament’s remaining smaller groups is uncertain. It is also not known what level of support will be awarded to Mr Monette, a Belgian Federal Ombudsman, who emerged as a strong candidate in the early stages of the contest.

The winning candidate must obtain an absolute majority of the votes cast. If no clear winner emerges in today’s first round, the second round will take place on Wednesday, with the possibility of a third on Thursday.

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