OLAF /05/11 - Brussels, the 14 July 2005

The two day public hearing on the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) at the European Parliament confirmed that good progress had been made by the Office. The hearing on the revision of the Regulation 1073/ 99 on OLAF, was organised by the Committee on Budgetary Control and was concluded yesterday in Brussels.

OLAF welcomes the encouragement and support received at the European Parliament's public hearing. The Office's expectations for the hearing had been set out at its beginning in the speech pdf delivered by its Director General: "This hearing could provide the momentum for explicitly codifying in Community law principles that are already valid and applied anyway, namely that independent court proceedings prevail over any other considerations", Franz-Hermann Bruener stated.

Secondly he said that: "Together with demands for political supervision of OLAF, there are over and over again calls for the right of access to ongoing investigations. OLAF expects from this hearing a clear statement of the importance of the secrecy of investigations for efficient action against corruption and fraud. This should also be accompanied by details of what OLAF's future external governance will look like. In short: In the future, who should have a say in OLAF's work."

The third expectation was to receive "information from the hearing regarding the tasks that OLAF should fulfil in the future", seeing that "many different and at times contradictory demands are continually made on OLAF regarding the fixing of its priorities".

At the opening of the meeting, Committee President Szabolzs Fazakas recognised "the great accomplishments in the construction of OLAF, in particular in view of the burdens of the past." This opinion was confirmed by the great majority of the speakers and members of the COCOBU.

Vicepresident of the European Commission for Administrative affairs, audit and anti-fraud, Siim Kallas, remarked: "OLAF had a difficult start and is still surrounded by criticism, suspicions and misunderstandings. The Court of Auditors report confirms that the current structure works."

"OLAF is a rather unique combination of investigators with professional experience gained as national police, customs officers or judges. We need to make best use of the "value added" that OLAF can bring", stated Vice-President of the European Commission for Justice, Freedom and Security, Mr. Franco Frattini.
"This hearing has brought a strong commitment to OLAF", the standing rapporteur of the Committee, Austrian MEP Herbert Bösch (SPE), said in his summary at the conclusion of the meeting. "The message to the Office's staff is: your work is appreciated, all in all you are doing a good job".

In his summary, MEP Simon Busuttil (EPP, Malta) described the first day of the hearing which focussed on OLAF's external investigations and its cooperation with partners in the Member States and third countries as an "extremely positive experience".

Belgian MEP Bart Staes (Greens), in his summary, referred, in particular, to OLAF's internal code of procedures and pointed out that it is " good that the Manual exists and should be published". He said that the OLAF-Director had done "a good job" in this respect, but that it remains a "work in progress".

Dutch MEP Jan Mulder (ALDE) summarised the findings as follows: "OLAF is a useful institution".

The views expressed by a majority of the participants at this public hearing, and stated in the hearing's conclusion, is very satisfactory for OLAF, and encouraging to all its staff in their hard work and difficult task. Such support is necessary to generate the enthusiasm required for the task which is so important and in the interest of the European citizen.
OLAF's efforts have been subjected to some unjustified criticism. Such criticism has itself been complained of by some Members of the Parliament and rebutted by others. Mr Bruener, for example, has been strongly supported by some MEPs when, in answer to an MEP who was attacking him using, an apocryphal draft report of the Petitions committee on the special report of the European Ombudsman by way of an anticipated verdict on OLAF and him (this "report" should not even have been in existence, because the procedure - i.e. the hearing the Director General of OLAF and the European Ombudsman and the exchange of views within the Parliament - had not yet started, nonetheless it was published in some media), Mr Bruener stated "such procedures remind me of certain Soviet methods used in the Democratic Republic of Germany; methods, which I got to know closely due to my work as a magistrate in Germany shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall".

In fact the majority of the participants recognized the good results achieved by OLAF in its first five years of activity, despite the other progress that OLAF must still achieve.

Link: public hearingAll available translations. OLAF website

Alessandro Butticé
Head of Communication, PR and Spokesman Unit
Tel : +32 (0)2 296.54.25
Fax : +32 (0)2 299.81.01

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