Ignoring the EU Ombudsman, the risks for the Institutions and EURSC, a decade of naughty school children
September 28, 2013
In 2004, the Commission issued its Communication to the Council and the European Parliament concerning a consultation on options for developing the European Schools system. In August 2009, the Commission indicated that it was concerned about the failure rates in the European Schools system. The Commission agreed that it was important to find the causes of the failures and to take action as soon as possible. The Staff Committee of the Institutions filed a complaint with the Commission and in it they referred to a 2004 EU Ombudsman decision which identified “a useful opportunity for external review of progress in raising the quality of administration of the European Schools and enhancing their transparency and efficiency”
In March 2010 after no progress the Staff Committee filed a complaint with the EU Ombudsman alleging that the Commission had failed to respond adequately to repeated requests which it and the Staff Committee had made for an independent external audit of the European Schools system.
The EU Ombudsman noted with disappointment that the Commission did not take a clear position on the complainant’s claim that an independent external audit of the ES was necessary. Instead, it made some references to the mechanisms of review introduced by the reform of 2009. The Ombudsman considered that this did not adequately address the complainant’s and the Staff Committee’s request.
In 2011 the EU Ombudsman was not convinced by the Commission’s defence that an external analysis by an organisation called PISA would allow for a number of questions, namely, those relating to the failure rates in the ES, to be answered. The Ombudsman did not see how a study which focuses on the knowledge acquired by pupils near the end of their compulsory education may be sufficient to satisfy the complainant’s, and the Staff Committee’s, repeated claims for an audit focusing on the reasons for repeat and dropout rates, which is particularly high in the French-speaking section and in disciplines relating to the sciences, in the ES in Brussels, and/or on issues relating to integrating students with disabilities and/or governance in the ES.
While acknowledging the Commission’s limited voting power in the EURSC Board, the EU Ombudsman emphasised that the European Schools did appear to have been subject to external assessments/evaluation exercises in the past. The assessments of the European Parliament and of the University of Cambridge have provided useful grounds for review. Some, however, took place some time ago, while others did not appear sufficient to satisfy the complainant’s and the Staff Committee’s repeated claims for an audit.
In April 2012 The EU Ombudsman concluded
The European Commission failed properly to respond to the complainant’s and the Staff Committee’s request for the organisation of an independent external audit of the European Schools. This constitutes an instance of maladministration.
When an institution does not comply with the Ombudsman’s draft recommendation, the only further step that is available to the Ombudsman is to invoke Article 3(7) of his Statute and to submit a special report to the European Parliament. In the present case, however, the EU Ombudsman did not consider that the Commission’s failure outlined above justified his submitting a special report to the European Parliament. Notwithstanding this conclusion and in light of the important matters referred to in the so called “Cavada” Report, the Ombudsman forwarded a copy of this decision to the European Parliament’s Committees on Culture and Education and on Petitions for information.
Standards in the European Schools have continued to fall, the EURSC run Baccalaureate in 2012 was the subject of major quality control issues particularly in maths and chemistry. One only needs to google “BAC Fiasco” so see this.
In September 2013 the European Commission states “concerning the conclusions of the European Ombudsman in the case 814/2010/JF, the Commission did not share the view that an external audit of the [EURSC European Schools system] was necessary in relation to the issues put forward in the case such as high repeat and dropout rates and put forward a number of measures/initiatives already taken or ongoing in order to improve the system.
It seems that if the European Commission disagrees with the EU Ombudsman it can simply ignore the EU Ombudsman findings. It can merely repeat the arguments it made during the EU Ombudsman investigation, even though they were found to be unconvincing. To what end? To the detriment of the pupils at the EURSC European Schools, to the detriment of the school system and to the detriment of the integrity of the Institutions and the EU Ombudsman.
Will the democratic process correct this slide towards anarchy by the European Commission, behaving like a naughty school child who refuses to behave “just because” .
The European Parliament must now in October 2013 consider a citizens petition to have an audit of EURSC and to reform the EURSC, lets hope common sense prevails and Parliament does not bury its head in the sand.
Author : Mélanie Bruneau
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