European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly speaking at the Institute of International and European Affairs today
European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly addressed the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin, outlining what she believes are the challenges facing the European Union.
During her speech, she said:
“…from my Ombudsman perch, I can often sense what plays well with citizens and what does not, I can hear the mood music change from light and happy to dark and unhappy as actions or inactions give rise at times to a loss of faith.
“Legitimacy is eroded when influential EU personnel move through the revolving door dragging their institutional network and insider knowledge with them with just superficial restraint imposed.
“Legitimacy is eroded when a citizen cannot find out what position their own Government is taking on an issue that is important to that citizen.
“Legitimacy is eroded when expert groups that advise the Commission on lawmaking fail fully to comprise all legitimate interests.
“Legitimacy is eroded when conflicts of interests are not fully disclosed or fully dealt with.
“Legitimacy is ultimately eroded when an institution prioritises its own interest over those it is there to serve.
“Needless to remark, my work is not always welcomed with open arms by the institutions but I do appreciate the high levels of co-operation we received and I also acknowledge and applaud the committed work of those who work in the EU administration. The standards of the administration are high in accordance with the major role it plays within the Union and often higher than those in some of the member states.
“But I approach my work, not as a cynic, or even a sceptic, but as someone who is deeply committed to the Union and never more so than now when its values – no matter how fragile they can seem at times – are needed in a world where so many of those values are in danger of degradation.
“We live, it is said, in an age of anxiety, from anxiety about the planet, about pandemics, about the reach and power of artificial intelligence, the future of work, the might of China, the direction of travel of the Trump administration. The small EU administration cannot be expected on its own to solve or resolve those global issues but it can do its own work ethically and in compliance with the values under threat in other parts of the world and even within the EU itself.
“Its leaders have an even higher ethical obligation. Every individual deviation from the values of the EU are seized upon by those hostile to the Union and used as weapons to discredit and attack.
“Some complaints might seem trivial or nitpicking but I have seen so-called trivial complaints – if not resolved by the institutions – weaponised by Eurosceptics and inflict significant reputational damage on the Union.
“As the new legislative cycle gets underway, the EU is faced with great challenges, some traditional, some brand new. Some people wonder if the Union has the strength of will and the institutional means to deliver the outcomes it has committed to.
“My belief is that the Union can be as powerful as its leaders wish it to be and as courageous as those same leaders dare themselves to be.
“If populists with agendas that lack compassion for outsiders, that attempt to subvert the rule of law – can gain support among a multitude of followers – it simply cannot be that a Union that genuinely upholds the deeply humanitarian values set out in the Treaties and the Charter cannot garner the depth and breadth of support that will enable it not just to survive but to flourish.”
Ms O’Reilly’s speech can be read in full here