Natisni vsebino

The role of an ombudsman in the process of modernization and europeazation of the state

06.06.1998 18:12
Category: papers


Portorož, 5. - 6. June 1998



THE ROLE OF AN OMBUDSMAN IN THE PROCESS OF MODERNIZATION AND EUROPEAZATION OF THE STATE
Ivan Bizjak, ombudsman

In the transitional Slovenia a fundamental transformation is still inprogress, encompassing radical changes to legislation, the structure ofauthority and the practice of state bodies. As the democratic changeswere taking place, it appeared that this wide-ranging task could becarried through in a short space of time. It is becoming increasinglyclear, however, that this is a time-consuming and complicated process.Approaching to the European union demands enforcement of the commoneuropean standards, what could be helpful in looking for the mostappropriate solutions on one hand, and represents also new challengeson the other. Characteristic of the transitional circumstances is onone hand an unstable and, given the frequent changes, not entirelyconsistent legal order, as well as a range of state bodies that areinundated with applications to the extent that they take anextraordinary length of time to reach decisions and are sometimesrendered ineffective. To this we have to add the huge expectations ofpeople who had hoped for rapid change for the better, and for errorscommitted in the past to be put right. All of this is only happeningslowly. While at the same time many people are encountering problemsthat were previously unknown, especially unemployment and the resultantsocial hardships.

In the transitional circumstances the role of the ombudsman is evenmore important than in countries enjoying a long democratic tradition.The ombudsman can have an important impact on the way thetransformation proceeds in all three areas mentioned. In the area oflegislation the ombudsman plays a vital role in drawing attention toinappropriate and outdated regulations. All the more so becausegovernments and parliaments give priority to dealing with regulationsconcerning economic and general political issues, while regulationsthat are essential for the exercise and safeguarding of human rightsare often left aside. And the adoption of numerous new regulationsitself can cause problems for individuals. Even the most thoroughlegislator cannot envisage all situations that life may bring.Conflicts and loopholes also occur with the newly adopted laws, whichthe state bodies generally resolve to the detriment of the individual.In addition to the possibility of proposing to change the law anotherimportant option which the ombudsman has is that he may demand a rulingby the constitutional court on the constitutionality of a law, or hemay also lodge a constitutional complaint on behalf of the personaffected. Through appropriate use of these possibilities the ombudsmanis in a position to significantly accelerate the harmonisation of thelaws with the constitution and with international legal acts, and theiradaptation to real-life situations.

The warnings, opinions and proposals of the ombudsman can also be veryimportant as far as the adaptation of the structures and institutionsof a country to the standards of a state governed by the rule of laware concerned. The problems which emerge from complaints made byindividuals can form the basis on which shortcomings in the functioningof state bodies can be established. Organisational changes can beproposed in places where, for instance, the existing organisationprevents the effective exercise of the right of appeal, as well asappropriate strengthening and organisational changes where proceduresare unreasonably long. In the restored democracies the role of theombudsman is especially important as far as changing the practice ofthe state bodies is concerned, particularly as regards theirrelationship with the citizen. The mere fact that someone is watchingover these bodies urges them to act properly. The role here is apreventive one, and it is particularly important in the workings of therepressive bodies. And of course equally important is the role of theombudsman in changing the relationship between the administrativebodies of the state and the citizens who turn to them in order toexercise their rights and defend their interests. The principle of anall-powerful state remains strongly rooted in the minds ofadministrative officials. The ombudsman can help to establish theprinciple that the state exists to serve the citizens, not the otherway round. And the ombudsman can also play an important role in theprevention of corruption within state bodies. By warning the decisionmakers to the concrete problems of the people the ombudsman cansignificantly contribute to the (trans)formation of the policies, whichshall adequately distribute the burden of the change of the economicsystem.


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