[fyeg_gen-l] Ombudsman criticises Commission for language discrimination in EU project

FYEG Office office at fyeg.org
Tue May 27 10:56:04 CEST 2008

*Please find below a press release from the European Ombudsman.
The English, **French and German versions are attached. *

    *PRESS RELEASE NO. 6/2008*

    *27 May 2008*

    *Ombudsman criticises Commission for *

    *language discrimination in EU project*


    The European Ombudsman, *P. Nikiforos Diamandouros*, has criticised
    the European Commission for its refusal to accept applications for
    an external assistance project for torture victims in any of the
    official EU languages. This follows a complaint from a German NGO,
    that the Commission's call for proposals was restricted to English,
    French or Spanish.

    The Commission refused to accept a recommendation from the Ombudsman
    in which he urged it to accept any EU language in the applications
    for this programme. According to the Commission, the use of all EU
    languages was not practical in the field of external assistance. Mr
    Diamandouros commented: "The Commission's arguments are not
    convincing. NGOs have a right to use any of the EU languages when
    sending documents to the EU institutions. The Commission's refusal
    to comply with this legal obligation constitutes maladministration."

    *German NGO contests language restrictions in call for tender *

    In 2004, the Commission published a call for proposals for a
    rehabilitation project for torture victims, which formed part of the
    programme entitled "European Initiative for Democracy and Human
    Rights". Applications were to be submitted in English, French or
    Spanish. A German association, offering psychological treatment and
    social support to refugees and their families, who are victims of
    torture, wanted to apply. It asked the Commission to accept the
    relevant documents in German, as translation would be very costly
    and time-consuming. The Commission insisted, however, on a
    translation of the documents.

    The NGO turned to the Ombudsman alleging discrimination because of
    the language restrictions. It stressed that the Commission had a
    legal obligation to accept the use of any of the official EU
    languages in applications submitted in response to its calls for

    In its opinion, the Commission stated that for projects with third
    countries, the use of all EU languages was not feasible, because of
    the costs and the time constraints involved. According to the
    Commission, a pragmatic approach with a restricted use of languages
    had therefore been chosen.

    The Ombudsman pointed out that the Commission has a legal obligation
    to accept documents in any of the official EU languages. He could
    not see why this case should constitute an exception. The Ombudsman
    therefore sent a recommendation to the Commission asking it to avoid
    this kind of discrimination in the future.

    The Commission refused to accept the recommendation, reiterating its
    argument that working in all EU languages would not be feasible in
    the field of external assistance. It also raised the problem of
    possible discrimination against third country languages, such as
    Thai, Swahili or Arabic.

    The Ombudsman remained unconvinced. He agreed that cost
    considerations are important; they could not suffice, however, to
    entitle the Commission to disregard its legal obligation to accept
    all official languages. According to the Ombudsman, this legal
    obligation could only be changed by the EU legislator. He concluded
    that the Commission's insistence that English, French or Spanish be
    used for project applications constituted an instance of
    maladministration. However, as the Commission's view and practice on
    this question seems to have evolved, the Ombudsman refrained from
    submitting a special report to the European Parliament.

    To read the full decision, please go to:

    /The European Ombudsman investigates complaints about
    maladministration in the EU institutions and bodies. Any EU citizen,
    resident, or an enterprise or association in a Member State, can
    lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman offers a fast,
    flexible and free means of solving problems with the EU
    administration. For more information:
    /http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu <http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/>   

    /For information on the case: Mr Gerhard Grill, Principal Legal
    Advisor, tel: +33 3 88 17 24 23/

    /For press inquiries: Ms Gundi Gadesmann, Press Officer, tel: +32 2




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