Ireland’s Emily O’Reilly to be next EU Ombudsman

Ireland’s Emily O’Reilly to be next EU Ombudsman

On 3 July 2013 Emily O’Reilly was elected as the next European Ombudsman by members of the European Parliament.

O’Reilly, national ombudsman in Ireland since 2003, will be the first woman to hold the position, which has existed since 1995. She defeated Dutch centre-right MEP Ria Oomen-Ruijten by 359 votes to 276 in a run-off ballot after none of the six candidates won an outright majority in the first two rounds.

She will start work on October 1 following the retirement of the current ombudsman, Greek academic P. Nikiforos Diamandouros. The role involves investigating maladministration in European Union institutions and agencies.

At a press conference this afternoon, O’Reilly said: “I would hope to raise this office to the next level of impact, authority, respect and, above all, effectiveness. Increasingly as the member states and the individual lives of people in those member states are more and more governed right here – in parliament, the European Commission, the other institutions – then it is even more important that the office of the European Ombudsman strives to make itself more impactful, more visible and more powerful.”

Following the vote in Strasbourg, Diamandouros, who himself succeeded the first EU ombudsman Jacob Söderman in 2003, said: “I am convinced that Emily O’Reilly will pursue with dedication, dynamism, and vision the European Ombudsman’s goal of serving as a bridge between European citizens and the EU administration.

“Her experience in impressively restructuring and successfully running an ombudsman institution at the national level will undoubtedly be extremely valuable to her new institution. I am also sure that she will give further impetus to the European Ombudsman’s close cooperation with the ombudsman community in Europe.”

O’Reilly and Oomen-Ruijten each won 203 votes in the first round of voting yesterday, well ahead of the other candidates. Oomen-Ruijten held a small lead in the second round this morning, but failed to win a majority. Then in the run-off – when all but the top two candidates had been eliminated, – O’Reilly secured a comfortable victory in the race to fill the Strasbourg-based post, which comes with an annual salary of €248,000.

Former journalist O’Reilly is thought to have won significant support from MEPs who believed the position should go to an independent candidate rather than a member of the parliament such as Oomen-Ruijten, who sits with the centre-right European People’s Party, the largest political group in the assembly.

European Commissioner vice-president Maros Sefcovic said: “I particularly welcome the fact that for the first time a woman has become the European Ombudsman. Mrs O’Reilly is a superb choice with long experience of what the job involves. She became Ireland’s first female ombudsman in 2003.”

Sefcovic, responsible for inter-institutional affairs and administration, added: “It is important that EU institutions and the ombudsman get the message across that the EU and its institutions care about peoples’ needs and problems and do everything that is in their power to address them in a concrete way. It is also important that the people of Europe understand their rights as EU citizens, including the right to complain to the ombudsman.” Read more…

© Public Service Europe/Daniel Mason

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