Current events: news and press releases

The Catalan Ombudsman holds an institutional meeting with the Ombudsman of Slovenia

15/05/2019

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It was the first institutional visit on an international scope since Peter Svetina was appointed Ombudsman three months ago

The human rights Ombudsman of the Republic of Slovenia, Peter Svetina, met on Tuesday, May 14, with members of the institution of the Catalan Ombudsman, in the framework of an institutional visit.

Together with his Deputy and Chief of Cabinet, Svetina has held several meetings with the Catalan Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó; the Deputy General, Jaume Saura; the deputy for the defence of children’s rights, M. Jesús Larios, and other members of the team.

The purpose of the visit was to make an institutional exchange, knowing the functioning of the two Ombudsman offices and their competencies in accordance with the current legal system. 

The meetings have also highlighted the main current challenges facing both institutions, taking into account the particular context and political and social scene in Europe.

The tasks and achievements of the Catalan Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture and the Children's Area have been addressed, especially with regard to the activity carried out by the European Network of Ombudsmen for Children (ENOC ), as well as the other actions carried out by the Catalan Ombudsman in the international framework.

It was the first international visit on an international scope since Peter Svetina was appointed Ombudsman three months ago

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The Catalan Ombudsman participates in the Annual Conference of the European Ombudsman leading a working group on the Regulation on data protection (GDPR)

11/04/2019

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The meeting, which has taken place at the headquarters of the European Parliament, has also addressed issues such as participation in public affairs or social rights

The Ombudsman of Catalonia, Rafael Ribó, in the framework of the European Network of Ombudsmen conference, which took place on April 8th and 9th in Brussels analized, together with ombudsmen from all over Europe, what effects has the entry into force of the new European data protection regulation on the institution.

Ribó led a work group on the effects of the law and explained some of the actions carried out by the Catalan Ombudsman in order to guarantee compliance with the new regulations since their coming into force. Among others, all complaints procedures and forms have been reviewed and the entire staff has been trained on the criteria that must be followed to protect the confidentiality of the data managed. In addition, the consulting services of an experienced person have been hired, along with other statutory control bodies. According to the Catalan Ombudsman, the ombudsmen work with highly sensitive material and the new regulations are more of a tool than an obligation. In the presentation of conclusions, Ribó emphasized the degree of responsibility assumed by the Ombudsman in the implementation of the law.

European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, has hosted the annual European Network of Ombudsmen conference, where measures to improve participatory democracy in the EU have been discussed. Some of the issues raised were: Do citizens feel they can shape EU decisions? What makes a successful participatory democracy tool? How can public administrations, ombudsmen and others better involve citizens in decision-making?

This annual event brings together around 100 national and regional ombudsmen from all over Europe, as well as MEPs, EU officials, organisations and other interested participants. In addition to participation in public affairs, other issues dealt with in depth on this occasion have been family benefits, social rights and the right to health.

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The Catalan Ombudsman suggests measures to reduce the home electricity bill by half

27/03/2019

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Report: The right to electricity supply: obstacles and solutions in the price, access to the service and the guarantee of its quality. March 2019

The proposal, included in a new report of the Catalan Ombudsman, focuses mainly on distributing proportionally and fairly between all types of consumer uses (home, industrial, services, etc.) charges not related to consumption

With regard to the tax on electricity generation, which from April on will be added to the bill, Rafael Ribó emphasized that it goes in the opposite direction of the recommendations of the report

As far as taxation is concerned, it is suggested to reduce the tax burdens that are no longer justified, such as the electricity tax, and to bring the VAT of 21% to a reduced rate, similar to that applied by the nearby countries

The institution recommends to the State Administration that the procedure for the application and renewal of the social benefit be redefined, taking into account the rights of vulnerable people and the principles of administrative simplification


The Catalan Ombudsman has suggested that the necessary legal and political measures be taken to make a 50% reduction in the electricity bill for domestic purposes, that is, in the electricity supply contracts for home consumption.

The proposal, included in a new report of the Catalan Ombudsman, focuses mainly on distributing proportionally and fairly between all types or uses of consumption (domestic, industrial, services, etc.) charges not related to the expenses directly attributable to supply or consumption. They are concepts that are outside the contracted service, such as the commitment of remuneration for renewable energies and cogeneration or the rate deficit, and represent about 70% of the total amount that must be paid.

This is also the case of the tax on electricity generation (technically called tax on the value of electricity production), that next April, after six months of exemption decreed by the Spanish Government to modulate the increase in the price of electricity, will be added to the electricity bill. In this sense, and beyond increasing the bill by 4%, the Catalan Ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, has warned that this measure goes in the opposite direction of the recommendations included in the report. In fact, this is a topic on which the Catalan Ombudsman already intervened in November 2015, when he requested that the concepts other than consumption and imposed by the Administration be excluded from the bill.

The report, delivered to Catalan Parliament on Wednesday, March 27, 2019, makes a diagnosis of the current situation from analyzing the cost of electrical energy based on the three contributing components with a similar relative weight in the final amount of the bill: the electricity that is consumed properly, the cost of which is derived from the resulting price in the wholesale market, where generators and traders negotiate energy sales daily; the second component, which are the access tolls that serve to pay, on the one hand, regulated system costs such as transport and distribution of energy, but also other non-supply-related expenses, such as subsidies to renewable generation or financing of the rate deficit (energy policy decisions), and, finally, taxes imposed to the consumer (such as electricity tax and VAT).

As far as taxation is concerned, it is proposed to reduce the tax burdens that are no longer justified, such as the electricity tax, and bring the VAT of 21% to a reduced rate, similar to that applied by nearby countries. Other measures that are proposed are to remove the concept of rent from the invoice counter, since it is not economically justified (lack of cost-benefit analysis).

Other issues

With regard to the electric social benefit, the Catalan Ombudsman recommends to the State Administration that the procedure for the application and renewal of the social benefit be redefined, taking into account the rights of vulnerable people and the principles of administrative simplification.

Likewise, the Administration should take the appropriate measures for the regulatory development of Law 24/2015, which should include the establishment of a model of report of social services to determine if the person or the family is in one of the situations of risk of residential exclusion determined by the Law. The institution also reminds the obligation of public administrations to act against criminal conduct regarding electricity networks and the duty of distribution companies to inform the administrations of irregularities they detect.

Lastly, and for cases of vulnerable squatters, the Administration should conduct a socioeconomic study to determine whether the illegal occupation is out of necessity and, if appropriate, provide the right solution.

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The Catalan Ombudsman claims zero tolerance against gender discrimination

25/02/2019

Calls for the MWC job offer to be withdrawn, which rewards stewardesses who are over 1'75 tall with a financial supplement

The Catalan Ombudsman will address the CEO of the organizing body of the World Mobile Congress (MWC), John Hoffman, to cancel a job offer intolerable with regards to sexualisation of women. Specifically, it refers to the recently published news about the fact that stewardesses of the WMC that exceed the height of 1.75 will be paid a supplement of one euro per hour. The Ombudsman considers that this case could be a serious and/or very serious administrative offense, in accordance with article 59 (3 and 4) of Law 17/2015, of July 21st, of effective equality between men and women, which states that it is a serious offense:

“Carrying out actions or imposing clauses in legal transactions that constitute or cause discrimination on grounds of sex.”

“Any behaviour, whether or not of a sexual nature, that depends on the sex of a person, that intentionally offends their dignity and that creates an intimidating, degrading or offensive situation.”

In this case, the ombudsman has also asked the Catalan Department of Labour to carry out the appropriate inspection actions.

The Ombudsman is the institution whose mission is to ensure the protection of fundamental rights and public freedoms. To this end, it oversees the activity of the Catalan public administrations. As part of its duties, the institution has also addressed the Catalan Women's Institute (ICD) and the Audiovisual Council of Catalonia to inform them.

The Ombudsman defends the right to effective equality between men and women because it considers it an essential value in a democratic state of law. In this regard, Law 17/2015, dated July 21, on the effective equality of men and women, establishes in article 57 that the Catalan Ombudsman, in accordance with the powers granted by the Statute of Autonomy and Law 24/2009, of December 23, is the body in charge of defending rights and freedoms in matters of non-discrimination for reasons of gender that could have been violated by the action of institutions or people, both public or private.

The same article establishes among the competences of this institution to carry out investigations, both ex officio and through complaints, to clarify possible situations of direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of sex, as well as facilitate negotiation routes and make recommendations to natural persons and legal entities in order to correct situations or discriminatory practices based on gender, and monitor compliance with these recommendations.

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Rafael Ribó: "It is incomprehensible to exclude from the trial the testimony of the institution in charge of guaranteeing rights and that it can provide objective data on the facts judged"

18/02/2019

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The institution has received dozens of complaints and has processed numerous files related to events that occurred on October 1st and 26th, facts that are at the core of the cause

Omitting the contributions of the Ombudsman may affect the right of defence of the parties that have requested his appearance

This matter will be brought into the attention of international human rights organizations and other European Ombudsmen

The Ombudsman, regarding the decision of the Supreme Court to exclude his testimony in the hearing of special cause 20907/2017, considers that it is incomprehensible, given his task of defence of rights and freedoms, by means of which he has received numerous complaints that could be provided as objective data. This may deprive the Court of its role of seeking the truth of the facts that focus the trial and the circumstances that surround them. In addition, he notes that omitting the contributions of the Ombudsman may affect the right of defence of the parties that have requested their appearance.

It should be recalled that the Catalan Ombudsman is the institution of Catalonia that, by statutory mandate, is in charge of the defence of fundamental rights and freedoms recognized in the Constitution, the Statute and international treaties. In this condition, and beyond the reports on rights and freedoms submitted during this period, the Catalan Ombudsman has received dozens of complaints and has processed numerous files related to events that occurred on October 1 and 26, facts that are in the core of the criminal case that is diluted to the Supreme Court. Likewise, the Ombudsman has been in direct contact with many of the circumstances that have surrounded the facts that are the object of the trial, and especially those that have affected the rights of people, which is why the exclusion of his testimony may mean depriving the Court of knowledge of facts relevant to the case.

With regard to the argument of the Supreme Court in the ruling of February 1st, 2019, the ombudsman, Rafael Ribó, shows that the direct testimony and before the Court of the facts indicated in his reports regarding the object of the trial, far from being excessive or expressing a subjective assessment, would have helped to clarify them. The aforementioned ruling rejects the appearance because “the reports submitted by the Ombudsman are available on the web, constitute a well-known fact and do not require additional explanations or evaluative reflections by its author”.

In the consideration of questions prior to the oral hearing, held on Thursday, February 14th, the president of the Second Chamber has once again rejected the testimony of the Catalan ombudsman. In the upcoming days, the Catalan ombudsman will bring this matter to the attention of international human rights organizations and other European Ombudsmen.

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