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Ombudsman pressures Commission for information on Dalli

The European ombudsman has launched an investigation into the lack of transparency surrounding the resignation of former EU health commissioner John Dalli.

Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros, who is appointed to address complaints about maladministration within the EU, has said he will inspect the European Commission’s file relating to Dalli’s departure from the Commission on 16 October 2012.

The ombudsman has also asked the Commission to grant access to four documents relating to Dalli’s resignation, which have so far remained secret. These include letters written by Dalli to the Commission president José Manuel Barroso, as well as records of meetings between Dalli and Barroso.

The events surrounding Dalli’s departure have remained mysterious, despite an attempt by the European Parliament’s committee on budgetary control to investigate the affair. Dalli left the Commission after it was alleged that he was aware of an attempt by an associate to extract money from a tobacco company in return for influence on legislation. His resignation came days after of an investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud office, Olaf, into tobacco lobbying.

However, Dalli has maintained that he was forced out of his job before being able to respond to the allegations. He is planning to sue the Commission over the events.

The ombudsman’s request is in response to a complaint filed on 31 January by the pro-transparency group Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO). The group has accused the Commission of secrecy, selective release of documents and failure to fulfill its obligations under EU transparency legislation.

As well as requesting access to unseen documents, Diamandouros has also asked Barroso to submit an opinion by 31 May on the allegations made by CEO.

In a letter from Diamandouros to CEO, dated 5 March, the ombudsman says he will provide the group with a copy of the inspection report. He also refers to the fact that the transparency group has not be granted access to the OLAF report, on which the original allegations were made. Diamandouros says that CEO may submit a separate complaint to the ombudsman on this matter.

A preliminary conclusion on the inquiry is expected by 31 January 2014.