EU ombudsman who confronted Selmayr re-elected

File photo. Emily O'Reilly in the European Parliament. [European Parliament Multimedia Centre]

The European Union’s ombudsman was re-elected on Wednesday (18 December) after six years in which she has tangled with some of Brussels’ most senior officials in the name of transparency.

Emily O’Reilly, an Irish former journalist turned government watchdog, received 320 out of 600 votes cast in the European Parliament, giving her a new five-year mandate.

She has issued reports on several complaints, most famously when she said the European Commission had broken its own rules in promoting senior official Martin Selmayr.

EU Ombudsman: Barroso and Selmayr cases gave ammunition to populists

The European Union’s ombudsman has voiced “frustration” to AFP that high-profile lapses in standards by the bloc’s institutions in recent years provide “ammunition” for eurosceptics to attack the EU.

Selmayr, who was chief of staff to then commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, was slipped into the powerful post of secretary general in February 2018.

O’Reilly found that proper procedures had not been followed in the snap appointment, and that Juncker’s commission had been guilty of maladministration.

Following her damning report, the European Parliament demanded Selmayr’s resignation.

Parliament calls for Selmayr’s resignation in landslide vote

The European Parliament yesterday (13 December) adopted a resolution, with a majority of 71%, that calls for the resignation of Martin Selmayr, the former right-hand man of Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker whose rushed promotion earlier this year was criticised as “a coup-like action”.

Juncker stood by his close colleague, who remained in post, but this year Selmayr stepped aside and he has been appointed to be EU representative in Vienna.

O’Reilly, who was the Irish government’s ombudsman and information commissioner before coming to Brussels, thanked parliament for its support.

“For the next five years, I will help ensure the EU maintains the highest standards in administration, transparency and ethics,” she said.

“One priority will remain tackling the lack of the transparency of EU law making by national governments in Brussels,” she said.

EU laws are proposed by the European Commission, but before a text is approved it must be passed by both parliament and the member states.

Member state ministers and ambassadors meet in closed door councils, as well as with MEPs and commissioners, to finalise the drafts.

“We need to stop the ‘blame Brussels’ culture, when often it is citizens’ own national ministers taking the key decisions in the EU,” O’Reilly said.

The ombudsman’s office was created by the 1992 Masstricht treaty to provide independent oversight of the work of the EU institutions.

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