Strasbourg, 16 February 2022

  • More documents on EU vaccine policy, pandemic response and NextGenerationEU funds should be made public
  • Legislative process and trilogues should be more transparent, with more documents released
  • Ombudsman’s recommendations on Frontex, ECDC should be followed

In 2020, the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly continued to increase transparency and the quality of services to citizens in the EU, say MEPs in an evaluation report.

In a report on the work of the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly in 2020 (adopted with 385 votes in favour, 217 against and 88 abstaining), the European Parliament expresses support for the Ombudsman as she seeks to promote transparency, good governance and public access to documents.

MEPs commend the Ombudsman’s work investigating the EU institutions’ emergency response to the pandemic. They find that more transparency is needed in EU vaccine policy (research, development and procurement), and that the Commission should publish its Purchase Agreements with pharmaceutical companies in full. MEPs also ask that the Ombudsman’s recommendations for improving the transparency of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) be fully implemented.

More openness needed in EU institutions

Overall, MEPs note that the working practises of EU institutions are not transparent enough, and welcome the Ombudsman’s work in probing these practises. They urge institutions to reform the outdated legislation on access to documents, and to implement the Ombudsman’s recommendations for trilogue transparency within the Council of the EU.

In 2020, the Ombudsman launched worthwhile investigations into the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), including its handling of fundamental rights breaches and its complaint mechanism, and into a revolving-door case at the European Investment Bank (EIB). MEPs encourage the Ombudsman to follow up on Frontex’s response to the issues raised, and to investigate its newly-established monitoring mechanism. They also urge the EIB to strengthen its rules against conflicts of interest.

Looking to the future, MEPs note that the public needs more information about the member states’ recovery and resilience plans and the allocation of NextGenerationEU funds. In this area, the Ombudsman should have a stronger oversight role to protect citizens from corruption, conflicts of interest and rule of law breaches, notes the report.

Quote

After the vote, rapporteur Eleonora Evi (Greens/EFA, IT) said: “With the adoption of my report today, the European Parliament shows its willingness to address bad practices and maladministration cases detected in EU administration by the Ombudsman in her excellent work. The strongest ethical rules must become the bedrock for all decisions adopted at EU level to prevent any conflict of interest and corruption cases, especially following the unprecedented level of investments planned under NextGenerationEU.”

Background

In 2020, the Ombudsman closed 394 inquiries. The most frequent subject of inquiries was the European Commission (210 inquiries, 57 % of the total). Closed enquiries most often related to transparency, accountability and access to information and documents (25 %) and the culture of service (24 %). In 2020, EU institutions implemented 79 % of the Ombudsman’s recommendations.