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Thursday, 19. November 2015. 12:23

Delegation of the Committee on Human Rights and Freedoms at the interparliamentary seminar in Brussels

Topic: “The Ombudsman’s role in a modern parliamentary democracy: a regional perspective”

Delegation of the Committee on Human Rights and Freedoms, composed of: Chairperson of the Committee on Human Rights and Freedoms Mr Halil Duković and members of the Committee: Husnija Šabović, Mr Izet Bralić and Mr Rešad Sijarić, is participating in the interparliamentary seminar titled: “The Ombudsman’s role in a modern parliamentary democracy: a regional perspective”, being held in the European Parliament, Brussels, on 18 and 19 November 2015.

The seminar is jointly organised by the Pre-Accession Actions Unit of the European Parliament in cooperation with the Office of European Ombudsman, as part of the Assistance Programme of the European Parliament to parliaments of the countries included in the enlargement process for 2015.

Participants of the seminar are members of the European Parliament, representatives of the European Commission, Office of the European Ombudsman, representatives of the institutions of ombudsman from: Montenegro, Estonia, France, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia, Turkey, as well as members of parliaments of: Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia, and Turkey.

The aim of the seminar is the exchange of opinions and experiences on the role of the European and national ombudsmen and their efficiency in the protection of human rights of citizens, and establishment of the action strategy for the future, including the role of the European Commission.

On day one of the Seminar, the participants discussed the following four topics: responsibilities of institutions of the European Union and the Ombudsman’s role, funds and resources necessary for efficient institution of Ombudsman, the European Network of Ombudsmen and its development as well as the manners of cooperation with civil society and role of general public.

At the beginning of the seminar, condolence was offered to the families, afterwards a minute’s silence was observed to honour the victims of the recent terrorist attack in Paris.

This crisis has shown up cracks in all of our democracies and after unfortunate events in Paris nothing will be the same.

European Ombudsman Ms Emily O'Reilly emphasised that ombudsmen had vital and important role in national democracies and one recognised as such by the European Union. Principles of serving the citizens remain the same for both national parliaments and the European parliament. Also, the role of an ombudsman is to check whether democratic system functions, checking through petitions if those who make the laws, and those who administer the laws know how those laws actually feel in practice to the people. An ombudsman has to be independent, just, ethical, resolute and impartial from the influence of administration. He/she has to fulfil citizens’ expectations regarding the legal remedy. Citizens and administration have to believe to an ombudsman. That is why the development by Ombudsmen of Codes of good practice is so important to the success of the work. Transparency, ethics and accountability are the most important principles - standards on which the public administration work rests, and a national ombudsman should contribute to building trust by their positive activities in national systems.

An ombudsman, rather, has great powers potentially at their disposal: character, media, public opinion and cooperation with parliaments, thus their role is vital and important, because, according to her, a good democracy allows them to work better and without fear. It is particularly important to develop the relation between ombudsman and citizens, and ombudsman and officials. The manner in which European Ombudsman shows its role is a broad basis as it acts upon requests of citizens of the European Union, with the role and task to make the European institutions responsible to the citizens, and the basis of this relationship is transparency as a principle. That is why the European Ombudsman is successful in encouraging European institutions. The second result is increasing disclosure of documents in the EU, while through the principle of transparency and by a close cooperation with the European Parliament and the Committee on Petitions, a relationship of trust has been developed. With regard to that, she held meetings with more than 50 MEPs in the capacity of the European Ombudsman. She suggested the cooperation of the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman with national ombudsmen, as well as with the European Commission because, Mr Pascal Leardini (Director for relations with other institutions, Secretariat.-General, European Commission) pointed out as the first pane, the European Commission has a great interaction with citizens of all states, respecting the rules and the best standards of transparency and accountability. Thus, 60 percent of all complaints addressed to the European Ombudsman are related to the European Commission.

The following can be done in case of recommendations of the European Ombudsman:

- apology to citizens - to make people understand that there are human beings on the other side who make mistakes, as the basic form of redress.

- search for friendly solution;

- change of administration in the most severe cases.

Despite the fact that they are not legally binding, the recommendations are very powerful. The report by the European Ombudsman receives a lot of attention, and the European Commission must explain what they will do with regard to recommendations of the Ombudsman, which has a positive interaction.

Ms Nele Parrest, from the Office of the European Ombudsman, and Deputy Chancellor of Justice of the Republic of Estonia, presented different experiences of member and accessing states, the way in which different cultures understood the principle of transparency, data protection, which opened a discussion, in which the following took part: Turkish MP, Macedonian Ombudsman Mr Ixhet Memeti, Albanian Ombudsman Mr Zoti Igli Totozani, the Bosnian and Herzegovian National Ombudswoman Ms Jasmina Džumhur, Montenegrin Ombudsman Mr Šućko Baković, member of the Albanian Legal Issues, Public Administration and Human Rights Committee of the Socialist Movement for Integration Ms Silva Caka.

Ms Nathalie Bajos from the French Ombudsman Office, Ms Irena Lipovic, the Polish Ombudsman and Ms Marta Hirsch Zembinska, Head of Complaints and investigations in the Office of the European Ombudsman said that the national ombudsman needed an efficient bureau. The money is running out, so the strategy for more effective actions should be developed with the available resources.

The experiences of Ms Nathalie Bajos from the Office of the French Ombudsman were interesting. She spoke about their success in protecting the rights of the population through the development of three principles - developed through the protection of citizens' rights and rights to the equal access to justice, international cooperation as very important for the work of the Ombudsman. Additionally, they stressed developed communication at the high level, both with citizens and civil society. Around 80 percent of the French Ombudsman’s recommendations are respected, which is a high level. The Office of the French Ombudsman employs 250 people, followed with 400 delegates in the country, they have a relationship with civil society and good practice of exchanging experiences with other ombudsmen. Around 83000 of complaints arrives to this Office per year

In particular, the importance and significance of the network of ombudsmen was highlighted, which should contribute to the exchange of good practices and positive experiences.

Tomorrow, on day two of the seminar, they will exchange opinions on investigating bad practices in cases of complementary roles of various institutions. One of the topics will be parliamentary oversight of implementation of the law and input of the Ombudsman. In addition, development of good administrative conduct in the reform process towards the EU integration will be also covered.