NEWS

Greece’s first ombudsman moves up to EU

STRASBOURG (Combined reports) – Greece’s outgoing ombudsman yesterday pledged to do his utmost to protect European citizens against maladministration following his election in Strasbourg as European Ombudsman just weeks after Greece assumed the EU presidency. Nikiforos Diamandouros, 60, won yesterday’s second ballot of the European Parliament’s plenary session with 294 votes, ahead of British Conservative MEP Roy Perry, who amassed 215 votes. There were 26 blank or spoilt ballots. Diamandouros had already beaten Perry in Tuesday’s first ballot by 238 votes to 159. Diamantouros, who is also professor of political science at Athens University and was director of the National Center for Social Research (EKKE) from 1995 to 1998, had been deemed the favorite for the post last year by the Financial Times. He promised to use his experience in Greece to take action against abuses of power by EU bureaucrats and address complaints lodged by citizens and enterprises. Speaking after the ballot, Diamandouros said he was fortunate to inherit such a role within the EU «which has already established the basic parameters of what an ombudsman institution ought to be like.» Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who was in Strasbourg yesterday, said the appointment was «not only an acknowledgment of (Diamandouros’s) achievements but also of Greece itself… of the country’s development on a general level and of its current work within the EU.» Simitis also praised Diamandouros for his «extremely successful» term as Greece’s first ombudsman. Diamandouros conceded that the EU’s planned enlargement next year to 25 member states would pose a major challenge, and said he hoped the work of the European Convention in drafting a European Constitution would take into account the role of a European Intermediary. He replaces Jacob Soederman of Finland, who is retiring on March 31 after seven years as the EU’s first ombudsman. «I am convinced that Mr Diamandouros will work on behalf of European citizens with dedication,» Soederman said yesterday. «His track record in defending citizens’ rights will greatly benefit him as European Ombudsman.» (Kathimerini, AFP)