European Ombudsman wants to inspect all documents in appointment of new secretary-general

The European Ombudsman, Emily O´Reilly, has initiated a new investigation of the controversial appointment of the new secretary-general of the European Commission following the European Parliament´s inquiry which resulted in severe criticism of the Commission. Known for her pro-active approach to the ombudsman function, this time she acts on two complaints from delegations in the Parliament, a Dutch delegation (ALDE group) and a French Socialists’ delegation (S&D group).

Whether her investigation will shed any new light on what happened is difficult to say. Her investigation is not an audit. Most issues have already been clarified in the extensive exchange of questions and answers between the Parliament and the Commission,

In order not to duplicate the work already carried out by the Parliament, the Ombudsman will consider that the answers provided by the Commission to the Parliament are the Commission’s final position on those matters.

She has listed seven new questions which basically are requests to the Commission to comment and reflect on what happened in the appointment procedure.

In the last question she writes that the Commission has acknowledged failures in communications in relation to this appointment.

She asks the Commission what actions it intends to take in the future in order to improve its handling of valid and legitimate questions from the media, “mindful that such exchanges are frequently the only way that citizens get answers to their concerns”.

What possibly could add value to the Parliament’s investigation is the Ombudsman’s request to inspect all documents, whether electronic or in paper form, held by the Commission and relating to the appointment. Her request includes information or documents that the Commission considers confidential.

As one of the flaws in the appointment procedure was the lack of transparency and communication with all the commissioners, she might not receive very much documentation but even a negative finding, such as lack of documented legal advice, would be revealing.

The Commission has confirmed that it will cooperate with the Ombudsman and reply to the questions. Deadline for answering is 15 June 2018.

The Brussels Times

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