An avatar of neutrality

By Pascal SteinwachsLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

If they did not exist, one would have to invent them: The Ombudsman – who of course does not have to be a man – is an impartial arbitrater who takes care of the problems of citizens in their dealings with the authorities.

The fact that dealing with administrations is not always easy, and that many citizens feel insecure or sometimes even powerless in their dealings with them, had already spread to Luxembourg in the 1970s. That is why in 1976, a first draft to create a "Commissaire général au contrôle de la gestion administrative de l'Etat et des Communes" was drawn up. However, the legislative initiative quickly disappeared in the drawer again.

It would take until July 2003 for the Chamber of Deputies to pass the relevant legislative project and until 2004 for the first Luxembourgish ombudsman – then Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker liked to refer to him as the "Knoutermann" (nagging man) – to actually take up his work in the person of former CSV politician Marc Fischbach. Luxembourg was thus the last European country to establish such an institution, which is intended to help citizens in their dealings with public administrations.

The Ombudsman's work is concerned with decisions that are contested by citizens or with procedures that have not been carried out as they should have been. This goes from the conduct of a single official to the conduct of an entire service. The person who intervenes here should be taken seriously, which means that they do not necessarily have to be popular, but should be respected by the administration.

After Marc Fischbach (2004 to 2012) and Lydie Err (2012 to 2017), Claudia Monti is the third Ombudsman of Luxembourg. She got the position on April 1, 2017. The office of Ombudsman, which incidentally is one of the best-paid posts in the civil service, is held for eight years and is non-renewable.

We conducted the interview with the "Knouterfra" on Wednesday last week. The 2019 annual report will be presented next Monday at 9:00 in the Chamber of Deputies and broadcast on "Chamber.TV".

Lëtzebuerger Journal: Why is the Ombudsman actually called Ombudsman? Ombudsperson would be a more appropriate name, wouldn't it?

Claudia Monti: The term ombudsman comes from Scandinavian, where "ombud" means to mediate and "man" means person, so the term is quite appropriate. Internationally, however, the term ombudsman or ombudsperson is becoming more and more prevalent; in German we say "Ombudsman" and in French "défenseur des droits".

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