Emily O’Reilly re-elected as European Ombudsman

Written by Martin Banks on 20 December 2019 in News
News

Irishwoman Emily O’Reilly has been re-elected as European Ombudsman for the 2019-2024 parliamentary term, backed by 320 MEPs in a secret plenary vote in Strasbourg.

Emily O'Reilly | Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


The election was partly overshadowed by a row after the European People's Party (EPP) nominated Cecilia Wikström as its candidate.

German MEP Sven Giegold, financial and economic policy spokesperson of the Greens/EFA group, told this website he objected to Wikström’s nomination, saying she was “absolutely unsuitable for this important office.”

Speaking on the eve of the vote, he said, “The European Ombudsman must be independent and have integrity. As Wikström has served as an MEP in the last legislature she is not independent but a political candidate of the EPP.”


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“Wikström was no longer nominated by the Swedish liberals for the May elections because she did not want to give up her seat on two company boards. Electing Wikström would damage the office of European Ombudsman in the long run.”

O’Reilly is a former journalist and served as the first female Irish Ombudsman for ten years prior to being elected European Ombudsman in 2013.

Apart from Wikström and O'Reilly, there were three other candidates: Giuseppe Fortunato (Italy), Julia Laffranque (Estonia) and Nils Muižnieks’ (Latvia).

At her Petitions Committee public hearing on 3 December, O’Reilly pledged to continue working to make the EU administration a role model for the whole of the EU, by putting citizens and their rights at the centre of its actions.

“For the next five years, I will help ensure the EU maintains the highest standards in administration, transparency and ethics. Europeans expect and deserve nothing less” Emily O’Reilly

“What the EU administration needs is to re-earn the trust of its citizens. I believe that this trust can be earned through increasing the institutions' accountability and transparency. Only when you are allowed to see how a decision is taken, can you start to understand why it was taken and only then can you start to trust,” she told MEPs.

Speaking after the vote, O’Reilly said, “I am delighted to have been re-elected for a second term. I wish to sincerely thank my fantastic campaign team for the huge effort over the past four months and I wish to thank my colleagues in the Office for all their hard work over the past five years.”

“For the next five years, I will help ensure the EU maintains the highest standards in administration, transparency and ethics. Europeans expect and deserve nothing less.”

“One priority will remain tackling the lack of the transparency of EU law-making by national governments in Brussels. We need to stop the ‘blame Brussels’ culture, when often it is citizens’ own national Ministers taking the key decisions in the EU.”

“I will also be holding President von der Leyen to her commitments on good administration, transparency and ethics. I look forward to our first meeting.”

Giegold said, “The incumbent O'Reilly has earned a great reputation in all political groups during her tenure. Especially in the scandal surrounding Martin Selmayr's rapid appointment, she sharply criticised those responsible and defended the democratic principles of the EU.”

“MEPs signalled their trust in O'Reilly and our group looks forward to working with the Ombudsman over the next five years with the crucial work of making the EU more open and accessible to all EU citizens” Jude Kirton-Darling MEP

“O'Reilly was also always on the side of transparency and citizens when it came to the Member States' secrecy regarding pesticide registration. This consistent defence of European values seems to be a thorn in the side of many in the EPP.”

“For Brussels, it would be an unusual and strange not to renew the mandate of a successful office holder. A long settling-in period is certainly not in the interest of citizens, who should be the main concern of the EU Ombudsman irrespective of party disputes.”

Jude Kirton-Darling, S&D spokesperson on the petitions committee, said her group backed O'Reilly “due to her competence and experience, as well as her courage and strong track record in taking on the establishment.”

“Since O'Reilly's election in 2014, the office of the Ombudsman has delivered concrete results on important issues which are particularly close to our hearts, such as getting rid of unpaid traineeships. On top of that, she has improved the transparency of the EU institutions and has improved trust in the EU overall.”

She added, “MEPs signalled their trust in O'Reilly and our group looks forward to working with the Ombudsman over the next five years with the crucial work of making the EU more open and accessible to all EU citizens.”

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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