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Ombudsman decries EU 'lack of transparency'

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(BRUSSELS) - The European ombudsman on Thursday voiced concern at the "lack of transparency" in EU administration after getting more than 3,000 complaints last year of maladministration and abuse of power.

Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros called on the EU administration "to become more transparent and citizen-friendly."

Over a third of complaints received by his office "concerned alleged lack of transparency, including refusal to release documents or information."

They also concerned late payments for EU projects, unfairness, abuse of power and discrimination.

He cited a case involving two "high-ranking" commission officials who accepted VIP tickets for the Rugby World Cup in Paris from a sportswear supplier.

He also criticised the commission, the EU's executive arm, for failing to make a proper note of a meeting with computer manufacturer Dell during an antitrust investigation of the chip producer Intel.

The ombudsman received a total of 3,098 complaints last year, 300 less than in 2008.

Most of the subsequent enquiries, 56 percent, concerned the commission, followed by the European parliament.

In most cases the matter was satisfactorily settled, often with a "friendly solution," the ombudsman said.

In one such case, the European Investment Bank (EIB) agreed to improve the way it documents reviews of environmental impact assessments, after the ombudsman found shortcomings in its procedure.

This followed a complaint from a Spanish citizen about the negative environmental impact of a planned high-speed railway through Barcelona.

In the complainant's view, the EIB's agreement to co-finance this segment of the project was wrong because the environmental impact, including to a masterpiece by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, had not been properly assessed.

European Ombudsman

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