I am the European Ombudsman – how can I help?

Magdalena Styrnik

It is a common knowledge that being  a citizen of the EU’s  or any kind of legal person with a registered office in the EU may cause some problems. The complicated structure of the institutions which should be in service to all of us, may sometimes create situations exceeding our ability to solve them.In such a case European Ombudsman can support us.

Current European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reily( Source: www.ombudsman.europa.eu)

Current European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reily (Source: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu)

The history

Ombudsman is an institution created in Sweden in 1809. At that time, it’s obligation was a simple control of administration’s activity. In 20th century many European countries appointed their public advocate (for example Finland, Denmark and Poland) as an independent office, separated from the judiciary and administration.

The European Ombudsman was established by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.  The first one elected by Parliament in 1995, was Jacob Söderman of Finland, the next one, elected in 2003 was Nikiforos Diamanduros of Greece and currently (from 2013) Emily O’ Reily of Ireland is in charge.

Basic task of the Ombudsman is to hold EU administration to account by investigating complaints. Important issue, that we have to remember about, is that these complaints only should concern the EU administration, not national, regional or local ones even if it’s connected with EU matters.

Legal basis of election and activity of European Ombudsman

Source: lubinextra.pl

Source: lubinextra.pl

According to art. 228 of The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) the Ombudsman is elected by European Parliament (EP), right after each election of EP for the duration of its term of office and can by elected again. The Ombudsman can be dismissed by the Court of Justice at the request of EP under particular circumstances named in para. 2 of the same article.

Although Ombudsman is completely independent while performing its duties, which means that he cannot seek for any instructions, for example from the government and that he should not be engaged in any other occupation during his term of office, he has to submit an annual report to EP.

European Ombudsman may conduct inquiries in two different ways : on his own initiative or on the basis of complaints submitted directly to him or through a Member of EP. If the Ombudsman decides that any case is a maladministration, he gives an institution in question, or any other named in art. 228 of TFEU three months’ period to inform about its standpoint. The next step is  sending Ombudsman’s report to both EP and institution concerned. Person who filed  the  complaint is also informed of the outcome of the inquiries.

It’s also worth to note that the Ombudsman is not on his own in fulfilling obligations. Together with European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions, European Ombudsman forms the European Network of Ombudsmen.

Need help? Make a complaint to European Ombudsman

Basing on art. 20 para. 2 point d of TFEU, citizens of the EU have a right to apply to the Ombudsman. That right is also confirmed by art. 24 of TFEU.

If you happen to perform this right you should be aware of many important issues:

1)      The Ombudsman may find maladministration if an institution fails to respect fundamental rights, legal rules or principles, or the principles of good administration, which means that the ECJ acting in its judicial capacity, falls outside Ombudsman’ s mandate

2)      Complaints shall cover for example : administrative irregularities, unfairness, discrimination, abuse of power, failure to reply, refusal of information and unnecessary delay

3)      You do not have to bepersonally affected by the EU’s institution wrongdoing to make a complaint

4)   Time is also very important- you should submit your complaint within two years of becoming aware of the facts on which your complaint is based, after having first contacted the EU institution concerned to help you.

5)   If you only speak or write in your native language, don’t worry. You can submit your complaint (by e-mail or post) in any of the 23 official languages of the EU.

Even though EU is not inexperienced organization any more, its institutions may still make some mistakes that can affect our fundamental rights. If so, the most important matter is not to be afraid of making a complaint and performing our right to petition. You can find further information here: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu.

If you still hesitate, please remember current Ombudsman’s, E. O’Reilly motto : “My ambition is to support the EU institutions in becoming more effective, transparent and accountable by strategically increasing the visibility and impact of the work of the European Ombudsman”.

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