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english-only consultations are maladministration in the eu October 18, 2012

Posted by Bradley in : consultation , trackback

I noted the other day that the Commission’s consultation on “the lists of product and service markets within the electronic communications sector susceptible to ex ante regulation” involved a questionnaire that was published only in English. The consultation was initiated only days after the Ombudsman decided that English-only consultations in the EU involved maladministration:

The Commission should ensure that all European citizens are able to understand its public consultations, which should, as a matter of principle, be published in all the official languages. Its failure to do so is an instance of maladministration.

The Ombudman wrote:

The Ombudsman agrees with the Commission that the publication of legislative proposals in all languages is necessary to enable citizens to exercise their “right to participate in the democratic life of the Union” (Article 10 (3) TEU). However, the Ombudsman cannot accept that such publication is sufficient to guarantee that right. On the contrary, it is at the preceding stage, that is, when the Commission’s mind has not yet been made up and its proposals have not yet been adopted as such, that citizens should be called upon to participate and to express their view(s) concerning future legislation and, in so doing, have an impact on decision making in the EU. EU law and the rights it grants to EU citizens are not meant to remain a dead letter. It is hard to imagine how citizens could actually enjoy a right guaranteed by the Treaty and have a direct say in the Union’s affairs, if they are only aware of the Commission’s position once it has been established and the formal legislative process has begun. This may be possible, to some extent, for well-resourced lobbying organisations representing specific interest groups, but not for the vast majority of ordinary citizens.

Will the Commission do what the Ombudsman says it should do? Or not?

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