Nikiforos Diamandouros was re-elected for a third term as the European Ombudsman by the European Parliament. His priorities until 2014 are:
- to ensure that EU delivers the benefits for citizens promised by the Lisbon Treaty;
- to strengthen constructive dialogue with EU institutions and bodies;
- to improve service to citizens, by using resources more efficiently.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the European Ombudsman has criticized the conduct of the European Commission during the investigation against US chipmaker Intel. Mr. Diamandouros has said that the European Commission committed “maladministration” by not recording in the case file a formal account of an August 2006 meeting between commission investigators and a senior Dell Inc. executive who was providing evidence in the case.
The report says that the executive, who isn’t identified, is believed to have told investigators that Dell viewed the performance of Intel rival Advanced Micro DevicesInc. as “very poor.” That could imply that Dell chose Intel chips for technical reasons.
The European Ombudsman has issued his annual report for 2008.
The Ombudsman registered 3 406 complaints in 2008, compared to 3 211 in 2007. Almost 60% of all complaints registered by the Ombudsman in 2008 were sent electronically, either by e-mail or using the complaint form on the Ombudsman’s website.
24% of the complaints were found to be inside the European Ombudsman’s mandate. However, in almost 80% of cases, the Ombudsman was able to help the complainant by opening an inquiry into the case, transferring it to a competent body, or giving advice on where to turn for a prompt and effective solution to the problem.
Most inquiries opened by the Ombudsman in 2008 concerned theCommission (66% of the total). The main types of maladministration alleged in inquiries opened in 2008 were lack of transparency, including refusal of information (36% of the total), unfairness or abuse of power (20%), unsatisfactory procedures (9%), negligence (8%), avoidable delay (8%), legal error (7%), discrimination (5%), and failure to ensure fulfilment of obligations by Member states (5%).
The European Union Ombudsman has stated in a decision that OLAF has failed to recognize the presumption of innocence while collecting information in a pending investigation.
The focal point of the legal argument is this text in a letter requiring information from the complainant’s employers:
“Elements suggest that [the complainant] committed serious irregularities in his position of team leader of the EU funded project [X].”
The Ombudsman considers that the incriminating language used by OLAF in that case does not appear at all necessary or proportionate to OLAF’s stated purpose of obtaining information about the complainant. According to the Ombudsman OLAF did not respect the principle of the presumption of innocence.
The European Ombudsman has launched a new interactive online guide for complainants that want to complain to EU institutions. The guide helps the complainant find the institution that actually has powers to decide over the issue.