It is Quite Time to Cut a Long Story Short

It is Quite Time to Cut a Long Story Short


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The Court of First Instance of the EU (CFI) has recently ruled (case T-209/02) that the European Ombudsman can be held liable for damages he has caused to EU citizens in the exercise of his duties, i.e. control cases of maladministration of the other Institutions. The Ombudsman has lodged an appeal before the European Court of Justice, which is undoubtedly expected to confirm the judgement of the CFI and reject the Ombudsman’s argument that he is not an Institution. This argument is really strange in a Community governed by the Rule of Law, where all Institutions are subject to a democratic and judicial control to which also the Ombudsman – contrary to what he wishes – should be subject to. Fortunately, the democratic control vis-a-vis the Ombudsman has already been exercised and has resulted in his resignation following the refusal of all the EU Institutions to accept his pretentious requests to further increase his powers. The judicial control is also being confirmed and will therefore cover the cases of the Ombudsman’s maladministration, which – although seldom – have started to occur. It seems that following his resignation the quality of his decisions laisse a desirer, that he discovers cases of maladministration where they do not exist, that often his investigations go well beyond his mandate – including challenging discretionary powers of the Institutions which are of a constitutional nature. Rumours say that he wants to “take his vengeance” because he was “obliged” to resign and therefore he is “going out with a bang” as it were. Others say that following his resignation he lost interest in his work and that certain activists in his office have their own “agenda.” This situation is regrettable: first, because the resignation was not immediately effective and the transition period during which he stays in place is very long; second, because this situation affects the credibility of the Ombudsman but also of the Institution as such.The Convention on the Future of Europe should discuss the Ombudsman status and role and make proposals to the new IGC. It is regrettable that the choice of the present Ombudsman was made by the then Socialist majority of the EP on the basis of a low common denominator. In future the candidates should undergo – as is the case of the Commissioners – a hearing before the EP Plenary in the presence of representatives of the other Institutions and those selected could subsequently be subject to a vote where a large majority should be required. In addition the members of the Ombudsman’s office should be selected on a temporary basis according to objective and transparent criteria and be fully replaced by others in the middle of his mandate. These are guaranties, which will preserve the Ombudsman Institution and avoid derapages described above. (657)

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