EU citizens need to know their rights to fight corruption!

On Friday, the European Ombudsman asked the question “Is the Lisbon Treaty delivering for citizens?

We here at the Transparency International EU office (‘TI EU’) indeed think that the Lissbon Treaty could deliver for citizens if the European Union (EU) were to implement a comprehensive EU information campaign on citizens’ fundamental rights.

The Ombudsman has just published a survey on how well citizens are informed on the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. It is clearly showing a lack of information and knowledge: 75% of EU citizens don’t know where to turn to and how to exercise their right to good administration (Art. 41 of the Charter) and the right to access to documents (Art. 42) included in the now legally binding Charter.

The Lisbon Treaty has, in fact, created greater powers of the European Parliament, which is the only institution democratically elected and thus legitimised by citizens. And, indeed, “citizens can now play a more active role in the circle of the political EU dialogue“, said by European Parliament Vice President Diana Wallis (see also her press release), for instance, through the new agenda-setting instrument of the European Citizen Initiative (ECI). However, Hans Martens of the European Policy Centre (EPC) noted that up until now, none of these citizens-friendly changes and tools have yet fuelled greater trust or interest of EU citizens. But trust and legitimacy by European citizens in the EU’s institutions are essential, as repeatedly stressed by keynote-speaker and European Council President Herman van Rompuy.

We at TI EU hence fully support of EU Commissioner Viviane Reding‘s proposal that 2013 shoud be the Year of the European Citizens, raising citizens’ awareness about their rights enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union which in the end will contribute to the fight against corruption.

Why we think this is the case? Take a look at our position paper “EU Citizens’ Rights: the way forward – Fighting corruption helps European Citizens to exercise their rights” that we have submitted to the European Commission in June 2010!

Dr. Janina Berg, Transparency International Liaison Office to the EU

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