Ombudsman: Council should reconsider language regime for Presidency websites

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PRESS RELEASE NO. 6 /200630 March 2006Ombudsman: Council should reconsider language regime for Presidency websites The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has stated in a draft recommendation to the Council that the choice of languages for the EU Presidency websites should be reconsidered. This follows a complaint from a German association which claims that these websites should be available not only in English and French but also in German. In the Council's view, the Member State holding the Presidency is solely responsible for its website. The Ombudsman disagrees.
The case
An association for the defence of the German language submitted a complaint to the Ombudsman, arguing that the Council's failure to ensure that the Presidency websites are also available in German constitutes maladministration.In its opinion on the complaint, the Council confirmed that the Presidency is functionally part of the Council. It went on to argue that this does not mean that the Presidency's websites are under the Council's control or that the Council can order a Member State to organise its website in a particular manner. The Council stated that there could be no maladministration on the part of the Council since that institution bore no responsibility for the Presidency's websites.In the Ombudsman's view, the issue raised in the complaint concerns the relationship between the Council and its Presidency. As the Presidency is clearly part of the Council, the Presidency's websites cannot be considered as “national” websites outside the reach of Community law. The Ombudsman is not convinced by the Council's rationale for insisting that it cannot be held responsible for the use of languages in the website maintained by the EU Presidency. He concludes that the Council's failure to consider the substance of the complainant's argument constitutes maladministration. The Ombudsman therefore calls on the Council to consider the complainant's request that the internet presentations of the Presidencies should be made available in German as well. The Council is asked to send a detailed opinion by 30 June 2006. To see the full draft recommendation, please visit:http://www.euro-ombudsman.eu.int/recommen/en/051487.htm
Background In 2004, an association for the defence of the German language asked the Dutch and Luxembourg governments to provide their EU Presidency websites, not only in English and French but also in German. The association argued that since EU enlargement, German has become the second most important language in the EU. The two governments rejected the request. The association then submitted a complaint to the Ombudsman against the Council.

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.euro-ombudsman.eu.int

For information about the draft recommendation: Gerhard Grill, Principal Legal Advisor, tel. +33 388 17 2423Press contact: Gundi Gadesmann, Press Officer, tel. +32 2 284 2609

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