[lg policy] Ombudsman: Commission should publish public consultations in all EU languages

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Sat Dec 3 15:21:35 UTC 2011

Ombudsman: Commission should publish public consultations in all EU languages
Available languages: de.en.fr

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    Case: 0640/2011/AN
    Case opened: Consultation document published in only one official
language of the EU; Justifications related to the urgency of the
consultation; Public participation in the EU decision-making process
    Draft recommendation of the European Ombudsman concerning his
inquiry into complaint 640/2011/AN against the European Commission

Press release no. 18/2011

01 December 2011

The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has called on the
European Commission to publish its public consultation documents in
all 23 EU languages or to provide translations upon request. This
follows a complaint from a Spanish lawyer, criticising the fact that
many public consultation documents are only available in English or in
a limited number of EU languages, even if they are intended for the
general public. The Ombudsman concluded that European citizens cannot
exercise their right to participate in the EU's decision-making
process, if public consultation documents are not available in all
official languages. He asked the Commission to draft clear guidelines
as regards its language policy in public consultation procedures.

Citizens cannot participate in a consultation if they do not understand it

The European Commission regularly carries out public consultations in
order to allow citizens, associations, and other stakeholders to
participate in the EU's decision making process. All public
consultation documents are listed on its "Your Voice in Europe"

In October 2010, a Spanish lawyer turned to the Ombudsman, complaining
that a public consultation on financial sector taxation was only
published in English, French, and German. He also submitted other
examples of consultations, which were only published in English,
including consultations concerning a new partnership to help SMEs, the
reduction in the use of plastic bags, and the freedom of movement for
workers. The complainant argued that the Commission's language policy
was arbitrary and contrary to the principles of openness, good
administration, and non-discrimination.

In its opinion, the Commission acknowledged that the language barrier
may constitute a hindrance for citizens to participate in its public
consultations. However, it also argued that the principle of
multilingualism in consultations depends on time constraints and
available resources. According to the Commission, its 2002
Communication on public consultations does not require it to publish
consultation papers in all EU languages.

The Ombudsman did not accept the Commission’s arguments. He shared the
complainant's view that European citizens cannot be expected to
participate in a consultation which they are unable to understand.
According to the Ombudsman, multilingualism is essential for citizens
to exercise their right to participate in the democratic life of the
EU, which is guaranteed by the Lisbon Treaty. He concluded that the
Commission's restrictive language policy constitutes maladministration
and called on the institution to publish its public consultation
documents in all 23 EU languages or to provide translations upon
request. The Commission must submit a detailed opinion on the
recommendation by 29 February 2012.

The full text of the Ombudsman's recommendation is available at:

The European Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration
in the EU institutions and bodies. Any EU citizen, resident, or an
enterprise or association in a Member State, can lodge a complaint
with the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman offers a fast, flexible, and free
means of solving problems with the EU administration. For more
information: www.ombudsman.europa.eu


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