The proceedings of the first day of the Ombudsman Conference in Malta commenced with a keynote address by the Parliamentary Ombudsman of Malta, Judge Emeritus Joseph Zammit McKeon. This was followed by insights from the President of the AOM, Dr Andreas Pottakis, a special video message from the European Ombudsman, Ms Emily O’Reilly, and a keynote speech from the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Malta, the Hon. Anglu Farrugia.
The initial plenary session focused on the crucial role the Ombudsman plays in democracies. This involves acting as a vital link between the public and administrative bodies and working towards ensuring that administrative decisions are transparent. The session saw Ms Erinda Ballanca, People’s Advocate of Albania and Vice President to the AOM, take the chair.
Dr Ivan Mifsud, Dean of the Faculty of Laws at the University of Malta, was among the panellists. He provided an insightful overview of the legal underpinnings of the Ombudsman institution. Ms Caroline Martin complemented this from the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, who elaborated on the “Venice Principles”. These principles are fundamental in guiding the establishment and functioning of Ombudsman institutions, underscoring their role in fostering democracy, upholding the rule of law, and safeguarding human rights.
Mr Tony Sultana, Malta’s Principal Permanent Secretary, shared his perspective on the interplay between the Ombudsman and public administration, stressing the mutual advantages that arise from their collaboration. The discussion then pivoted to explore the Ombudsman’s commitment to voicing the concerns of individuals and legal entities, ensuring they are duly addressed by administrative bodies.
The subsequent Plenary Session delved into the topic of ‘The Right to Good Administration, Human Rights, and Privacy’. In contemporary democracies, harmonising the right to good administration with human rights and privacy is crucial. By achieving this balance, transparency is enhanced, fairness is promoted, and individual freedoms are protected. The session was fortunate to feature a cadre of esteemed experts dissecting this complex interrelation.
Presiding over the session was Mrs Marina Ceyssac, the High Commissioner for the Protection of Rights, Liberties, and for Mediation from the Principality of Monaco.
From the University of Malta, Professor Kevin Aquilina delved into the right to good administration, analysing it within the framework of international, regional, and domestic law. His aim was to pinpoint its central elements. Providing an international perspective, Ms Maija Sakslin, Finland’s Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman, traced Finland’s journey, demonstrating how good administration has been recognised both as a core right and a binding administrative obligation.
Chief Justice Emeritus Vincent De Gaetano, currently the Commissioner for Education in the Office of the Ombudsman in Malta, navigated through the interdependent relationship between the Rule of Law, Fundamental Human Rights, and the Right to Good Administration. (Link to presentation / Link to speech)
Highlighting a local viewpoint, Mr Ian Deguara, Malta’s Information and Data Protection Commissioner discussed the right to good administration with a particular focus on data protection.
Rounding off the day’s discussions, Mr Şeref Malkoç, the Chief Ombudsman of Türkiye, shared the proactive measures taken by the Ombudsman Institution in Turkey, putting the spotlight on its dedication to encouraging good administrative conduct and championing human rights.
The productive day drew to a close with a pleasant dinner at the Verdala Palace, the official country residence of the President of Malta.