Press review, Wednesday 15 March 2000

Aamulehti (Tampere, 134 000), Helsingin Sanomat (Helsinki, 454 700), Hufvudstadsbladet (Helsinki, 58 900), Iltalehti (Helsinki, 119 900) and Turun Sanomat (Turku, 114 700) continue reporting on the dispute between the President of the Commission, Mr Romano Prodi and the European Ombudsman, Mr Jacob Soderman.

Helsingin Sanomat writes Mr Jacob Soderman as saying that he believes the President of the Commission Romano Prodi tries to limit his participation in public discussion. Mr Soderman responded to Mr Prodi s angry letter to the EP in which he blamed Mr Soderman for spreading false information and for interfering in an unsuitable manner in the Commission s affairs. Mr Soderman denies strictly the claims of Mr Prodi. "The regulations tell me not to take orders from any government or any institution, including the European Commission", Mr Soderman says. "No inappropriate pressure can make me give up the freedom of speech when defending the interests of the communities and the citizens of the European Union", Mr Soderman writes in the letter which he sent to the President of the European Parliament, Ms Nicole Fontaine on Tuesday. In his letter Mr Soderman also gave detailed proposals for improving the rules on openness.

Turun Sanomat reports on the Soderman letter: "When reading the letter of President Prodi one should remember that the majority of the complaints which belong to the authority of the European Ombudsman are about the European Commission. Lack of openness in functioning of the Commission has been one of the major reasons for complaints to the Ombudsman during the years."

Hufvudstadsbladet tells that in his letter to the President of the European Parliament Mr Soderman emphasizes that one has to be able to discuss these matters in public."I think the citizens of Europe have benefitted from this debate, not least because it gave Mr Prodi a chance to commit himself publicly to openness", Mr Soderman says.