P. NIKIFOROS DIAMANDOUROS
Dear Mr McNeill,
I am writing in reply to your e-mail of 28 May 2003, in which you submitted, on behalf of the European Committee on Romani Emancipation, a complaint against the European Commission concerning the latter's in preparing the accession of the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Slovak Republic.
Your complaint concerns the pupils attaending 'Special Schools' in the Czech Republic, in Hungary and in the Slovak Republic. According to the information provided by you, 98% of the pupils in these schools are no Roma whereas the figure was only 5% in the 1960s.
According to you, the Commission has
(1) abused its power through administrative irregularities by knowingly taking arbitrary deciisons to close negotiations on important topics of accession well before adequate adjustments had been taken to ensure compliance with EU law;
(2) not called public attention to the relevent facts, not initiated practical actions to stop this abuse and knowingly permitted these facts to pass almost without mention;
(3) been guilty of collusion in upholding discrimination;
(4) misinformed the European Parliament and the European Council as to the true scale and character of the ongoing human rights abuse against these children;
(5) been guilty of prevarication on the issue since being informed of it in 1999, and of unceccessary delay and unfairness.
You submit that as a result, the votes by the European Parliament and by Council on accessioon were flawed.
On this basis, you claim that (1) a full and independent review of the circumstances facing the children and of the non-negotiable actions to be taken by the governments concerned to terminate abuse should be carried out, (2) that Europeanb Parliamentary votes on accession of the countries concerned should be informed and reassessed and (4) that the performance of Commissioner Verheugen and his services should eb assessed.
Your complaint raises serious issues, and it is my view that these issues should be examined in depth.
However, the Treaty establishing the European Community and the Statute of the European Ombudsman set precise conditions as to the admissibility of a complaint. The Ombudsman can only start an inquiry if these conditions are met.
One of these coditions is:
Art 195 of the Treaty establishing the European Community:
"In accordance with his duties,the European Ombudsman shall conduct inquiries for which he finds grounds ... (...)"
After a careful examination of your complaint it appears that you have already addressed a petition to the European Parliament on the same subject and that the Committee of Peittions is dealing with the matter. The European Parliament will no doubt give the issues raised by this petition all the attention they merit. I hope you will understand that in these circumstances, it would make no sense for me to consider opening an inquiry of my own.
Under these circumstances, I have reached the conclusion that there are no grounds for me to conduct inquiries into your complaint.
It may be useful to point out that Article 226 of the EC Treaty entrusts the European Commission with the power and the duty to ascertain that the member States of the EU comply with Community law. The protection of fundamental rights forms an integral part of Community law. As Article 13 of the EC Treaty shows, the same applies to the fight against discrimination based on (inter alia) racial or ethnic grounds. These obligations will together with the whole acquis communautaire, become binding upon the new member States upon their accession to the EU which is foreseen for 1 May 2004. If what you cnsider to be dioscriminatioon and abuse of Roma children should continue beyond that date, you could contemplate the possibility of lodging a complaint with the European Commission.
I also wish to bring top your attention that, following suggestions to this effect made by the European Ombudsman, the Commission has committed itself to improving the status and role of complainants in cases concerning alleged infringements of Community law by Member States. The relevant Commission communication to the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman on relations with the complainant in respect of infringements of Community law has been published in the official Journal (OJ 2002 No. 244 page 5). It should be noted in particular that where a complainant considers that, in handling his or her complaint, the Commission has been guilty of maladministration, the complainant may turn to the European Ombudsman for help.
(signed P.Nikiforos Diamandouros)
P. Nikiforos DIAMANDOUROS
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