The European Ombudsman, Jacob Söderman, has opened an own initiative inquiry into the subject of the freedom of expression of the staff of the European Commission. In a letter to Commission President Romano Prodi, the Ombudsman "requests the Commission to inform him whether it has taken or intends to take any steps in order clarify the scope of its officials' right to freedom of expression. "

The Ombudsman’s initiative follows from several complaints that he has received in the last few years on the subject of officials’ freedom of expression. In a Decision that he published in December 2000, the Ombudsman concluded that although in the case in question there had been no maladministration, the Commission’s guidelines to its staff could nevertheless be improved.

This view is one that the Ombudsman first expressed to the Commission in 1997, when he closed an inquiry with the following remark:

"The Commission may wish to consider whether it could provide guidance to its officials on what it considers to be a fair balance between their individual right to freedom of expression, which includes the freedom to impart information and ideas, and their duties and responsibilities as officials, in particular under Articles 12 and 17 of the Staff Regulations."

Following the adoption of the Nice Charter of Fundamental Rights in December 2000, the Ombudsman feels that the time is right to again raise this important matter with the Commission.

The Ombudsman has given the Commission until 31 May 2001 to send him its opinion on the matter.

For further information, please call Gerhard Grill, Principal Legal Officer, tel. +33 (0) 3 88 17 24 23.


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