Saturday

13th Aug 2022

Ombudsman: EU database on fraud suspects breaches rights

  • The Charter of Fundamental Rights is legally binding (Photo: Wikipedia)

The European Commission's management of a database containing the names of companies or people deemed to pose a threat to the financial interests of the European Union is trampling basic rights, according to the EU ombudsman.

Anyone found on the Early Warning System (EWS) - as it is called - risks having their EU contracts blocked or suspended.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Numerous complaints over the EWS may force the executive to rethink its strategy, amid accusations it breaches people's fundamental rights to be informed, to confidentiality and to judicial review.

"The EWS is clearly an important tool in helping to protect EU funds. However, the Commission must introduce adequate checks and balances so as to ensure that the EWS complies with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union which is now legally binding on all EU institutions," said European ombudsman P. Nikiforos Diamandouros on Thursday (12 January).

The EWS divides names into five categories according to threat level. Only those who are already banned from contracts or grants financed by the EU's budget are automatically notified. They belong in the fifth category.

All others, including people suspected of fraud, serious administrative errors or other irregularities, are on the list for at least six months but are not informed. Guidelines to appeal against the listing are non-existent. Concerns have also been raised as to the accuracy behind the EWS data.

The European Charter of Fundamental Rights states that every person has the right to be heard, before any individual measure, which would adversely affect him or her, is taken.

They also have the right to access their files - while respecting legitimate interests of confidentiality and of professional and business secrecy - and the administration is obliged to give reasons for its decisions.

Diamandouros added that the scope of the EWS warnings is not clearly defined. A presumption of guilt is imposed on anyone on the list even if they are innocent.

An example was given of an evaluation committee revising its initial positive assessment of a company on the basis of an EWS warning.

The ombudsman asked the commission to define the legal basis behind the warnings for the first four categories and noted that the EWS might exceed EU legal competencies. EU civil servants operating the system should be properly trained and keep all data up-to-date and accurate, he also said.

Diamandouros has asked the commission to send a detailed opinion by 31 March 2012.

Greek PM embroiled in spyware scandal

Greece has become embroiled in a wiretapping scandal that led to the resignation of its intelligence chief as well as the Greek prime minister's top aide.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts 2022 season
  2. Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey
  3. EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive
  4. Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee
  5. Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties
  6. Russian coal embargo kicks in, as EU energy bills surge
  7. Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy
  8. Kosovo PM warns of renewed conflict with Serbia

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us