At breakfast meeting in Strasbourg Mr Prodi recognises the right of the European Ombudsman to criticise Commission proposals in public

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT INFORMATION OFFICE IN FINLAND

Thursday 13 April 2000

Helsingin Sanomat (Helsinki 454 700), Uutislehti 100, Hufvudstadsbladet (Helsinki 58 900), Aamulehti, and Iltalehti (Helsinki 119 900) all tell that the European Ombudsman, Mr Jacob Soderman and the President of the Commission, Mr Romano Prodi settled their quarrel on Wednesday. The dispute was about the transparency and openness of the documents of the EU. Mr Soderman criticised the Commission's proposal in international press and Mr Prodi sent a letter for the European Parliament. Both men were glad that the dispute was over. After a 47-minute breakfast in a Strasbourg hotel they said that the most important thing now is to continue the discussion on transparency. It was a victory for the Ombudsman that the Commission admitted the shortages in the proposal, Helsingin Sanomat thinks.

Helsingin Sanomat writes that according to Mr Soderman the relationship between the two men is friendly now. Mr Soderman had told Mr Prodi that about 20 per cent of all the complaints he is getting concern the transparency question. Mr Prodi underlined that the proposal is still only a proposal. He announced his willingness to reconsider the proposal after the Parliament has told its opinion on the issue. Mr Prodi also recognised the right of the Ombudsman to criticise the Commission's proposals in public.

Mr Soderman still thinks that the proposal of the Commission leaves the possibility open to prevent access to documents. Helsingin Sanomat reminds that only the European Parliament is able to dismiss the Ombudsman. Mr Prodi denied any attempt to limit Mr Soderman's freedom of speech. He is especially furious about Soderman's reference to the differences in the efficiency between the South and the North. "It makes me very worried when I hear someone saying: you are Southern and that means you are not as perfect as we are", he complained.

According to Hufvudstadsbladet, Mr Soderman said that the transparency question is the responsibility of the Parliament and the Council of Ministers now. Mr Soderman is going to present his views to the Parliament on Thursday. He says he is certain the Parliament is going to propose changes in the proposal, and he wishes they should be for the better. Helsingin Sanomat tells that the Socialists of the Parliament are going to publish a report supporting Mr Soderman.

Turun Sanomat writes that Mr Soderman published a report on Wednesday concerning good administration in the institutions and offices of the EU. He is going to give the report for the Parliament on Monday. According to Turun Sanomat, Mr Soderman reminds that good administration and transparency have nothing to do with the differences between north and south. "For example in Portugal and Italy there are laws concerning good administration", he says.

Helsingin Sanomat tells that the Finnish Prime Minister, Mr Paavo Lipponen also commented on the dispute on Wednesday. He told he understood Mr Prodi's irritation on Soderman's article in the Wall Street Journal. "It can be interpreted as insulting in some points. I think the institutions should respect each other", Mr Lipponen said. According to Aamulehti Mr Lipponen adds that it is a fact that there are different kinds of cultures within the EU and that the northern countries can not expect everyone to follow their example. "The Nordic countries are a minority within the EU and we should think hard how to look after our interests", Lipponen said.