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Vice-President of the Commission
Speech: Administrative procedure law – Berlinguer report
EP Plenary debate/Brussels
14 January 2013
Mr President, the Commission welcomes the own-initiative report prepared by Mr Berlinguer, as this report clearly identifies and elaborates a core set of fundamental administrative principles and rules stemming from different sources.
In addition, a wide range of valuable background material was collected during its preparation, and I would really like to express my appreciation of the impressive work carried out by Mr Berlinguer and his team. The end result puts our administrative practices into perspective and raises pertinent questions in terms of how to further improve the administration of the Union institutions, bodies and agencies. The right to good administration is one of the fundamental rights to be enjoyed by everyone in the European Union – be it a multinational company facing a decision, an NGO applying for a grant, or a citizen seeking information – and it is enshrined in Article 41 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Moreover, all EU institutions are bound by it.
In the areas where the EU is involved in administrative procedures, a substantive framework of principles and rules has developed and currently applies. It consists of treaty provisions, including the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights; general principles established by case law; cross-cutting legislation, such as staff regulations; access to documents; and legislation that is specific to sectors such as competition or procurement. In addition to these legal obligations, staff are bound by codes of good administrative behaviour in almost all EU institutions, bodies and agencies.
Against this backdrop, the development of a generally applicable, and thus comprehensive, regulation on EU administrative procedures – i.e. a codification exercise – has to be considered with great care. The codification of administrative law is a delicate instrument that should be used with precaution and a sense of proportion. To involve the Commission and the legislator in such an exercise may have some undeniable benefits in terms of legal security and legibility, as stated clearly in the report. But it is a complicated exercise that bears some possible costs as well. It can often have unintended consequences and entail certain risks in terms of lack of flexibility or adaptability over time, oversimplification, which limits its added value, or, on the contrary, over-complexity resulting from an overlap with existing rules.
The bottom line, therefore, is that it is incumbent upon us, when analysing whether or not to propose a codified instrument for the whole EU administration and all institutions, to weigh the possible advantages against the costs. And it is this very analysis that the Commission is currently conducting, based on the very valuable guidelines and material provided by your report, Mr Berlinguer. For example, our services are currently looking into the cases of maladministration identified by the added-value report, and these cases are very useful in addressing the issue of how to improve our administrative practices. Therefore, taking your substance‑based report as a starting point, the Commission is examining whether there are examples of maladministration that result from weaknesses in the current framework, and how such instances can be most effectively avoided in the future.
To sum up, the Commission welcomes the own-initiative report and the impressive background material that comes with it. We are studying it carefully, and I can assure you that in doing so we are guided by the same interests as yours in an open, efficient and independent EU administration. We, of course, will inform Parliament of the anticipated follow-up within the three‑month period provided for by the framework agreement.