On 12 February, the High Authority for transparency in public life received a delegation composed of five agents of the services of the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, led by the director of the Strategic Inquiry Unit, Fergal O’Regan. The European Ombudsman is independent from EU institutions and impartial. The institution holds accountable institutions and agencies of the European Union. It may launch investigations upon complaints or on its own initiative on potential cases of maladministration. In the framework of its reports and actions, generally speaking, the institution aims at promoting good administration within EU institutions and agencies.
The study visit allowed exchanges between this delegation and agents of the High Authority with regard to its missions of collection and control of assets and interests declarations, of prevention of conflicts of interests, former public officials’ post-employment regulation and of control of activities of interest representation towards public officials. The High Authority benefited from a presentation on the Ombudsman’s decision on private functions undertaken after leaving office by former President of the EU Commission José Manuel Barroso and the impact that this case had notably on the code of conduct applicable to EU Commissioners.
During the day, discussions allowed to put into perspective the prerogatives with regard to the EU Ombudsman’s ones, to mention their common mission of prevention of conflicts of interests and to compare integrity policies implemented in France and the EU level. The exchanges were rich, notably on the declarative process, the definition of a conflict of interest, the implementation of control missions of the High Authority, or with regard to the diffusion of principles of good administration and integrity within all French administrations and tools that were created to ensure regulation of interest representation in France.
The High Authority and the services of the EU Ombudsman agreed they work for a common goal: strengthen citizens’ trust towards administrations and public officials. At a time of rising citizens’ distrust and rise of populism in some EU Member States, this theme is more topical than ever. Further exchanges are expected between the institutions in order to deepen such discussions.