The Missing Date from the Postmark and the Odyssey of an Embarrassing Letter

The Missing Date from the Postmark and the Odyssey of an Embarrassing Letter


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As of this week, we intend to nominate the European Commission for an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as being the one and only institution in the world that does not stamp a date to its postmark.


Therefore, for any time gap between the date of the letter and its delivery nobody can say who is to blame – the Commission, the Belgian Post Office or the Post Office of the country of arrival.


The issue is serious because, by means of this otherwise “innocent,” call it inadvertency, the European Commission is armed with a very efficient “bypass” of its own Code of Good Conduct which provides for a 15-day maximum delay for replies to citizens. In this way, a procedure, which should be crystal clear, assumes the connotation of “legitimate lack of transparency,” making this chapter of the Code of Good Conduct, meaningless. Indeed, if somebody complains or misses a deadline and takes the Commission to Luxembourg, the Commission will certainly put the blame exclusively on the postal services.


The envelope reproduced in this little story contained a document dated August 22 and arrived at its destination (an EU Member State capital) on the 9th of September. Since the date is missing from the postmark nobody can say who is responsible for the 19-day delivery delay. Judging from the content of the document, however, and the fact that it took exactly 15 days for the letter to be written, anybody can guess who is to blame but nobody can prove it.


If, in the specific case, you take into consideration that it took DG IV exactly 15 days to reply (besides the 19 days travel!!) that it was not competent to answer and that it forwarded the request to DG VII (which is not competent either because if DG IV is not competent then DG XV and the Legal Service are), you certainly get an idea what an Odyssey an embarrassing request may go through and what use of the Code of Good Conduct our good friends at the Commission can make of.


I do not know if this “technicality” of the missing date, which can be manipulated by the services at their will, exists since the very beginning of the European Commission or if somebody invented it later.


What I do know is that such a “technicality” adds to the “obscurity” and it should be removed. So far, let’s say that nobody had noticed such a detail, which at first sight seems to be minor and innocent, but it isn’t.
Now, somebody has. (670)

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