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Summaries of EU Legislation

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The European Ombudsman

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The European Ombudsman

SUMMARY OF:

European Parliament Decision 94/262/ECSC, EC, Euratom – regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the Ombudsman’s duties

SUMMARY

WHAT DOES THIS DECISION DO?

It establishes the conditions under which the European Ombudsman works.

KEY POINTS

Status and appointment

  • The Ombudsman has a specific legal status in the treaties (Article 228 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).
  • The Ombudsman is elected by the European Parliament for a single parliamentary term of 5 years but may be re-elected.
  • The Ombudsman acts independently and accepts no instructions from any government or other organisation.
  • During the term of the mandate, the Ombudsman cannot hold any other political or administrative post, whether paid or unpaid.

Combating maladministration

The main role of the Ombudsman is to investigate cases of maladministration by EU institutions and bodies.

  • EU institutions and bodies must provide the Ombudsman with all the information that is required and must indicate if any of that information is classified (access to classified information is regulated by the security rules of the institution or body concerned, set out in Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001).
  • EU countries may have to provide information to the Ombudsman. If that information is covered by secrecy laws, the Ombudsman must not divulge it further.
  • The Ombudsman may act either on their own initiative or following a complaint.

Limit of authority

  • The Court of Justice of the European Union is outside the scope of the Ombudsman’s powers when it is carrying out its judicial function.
  • The Ombudsman does not have the power to investigate cases of maladministration by national, regional or local governments in the EU countries.
  • Cases already brought before a court and questions on the soundness of a court decision are also outside the Ombudsman’s remit.

Making a complaint

A complaint to the Ombudsman must meet the following conditions.

  • It must be submitted by an EU citizen, a person residing in an EU country or a body such as an NGO, a foundation or a company with a registered office in an EU country (legal persons).
  • It must be written in one of the 24 treaty languages.
  • It must relate solely to a case of maladministration on the part of an EU institution or body. ‘Maladministration’ means, for example, an abuse of power, administrative irregularities, discrimination, etc.
  • It must be lodged within 2 years of the date on which the person making the complaint (the complainant) became aware of the facts.
  • It must be the ‘last resort’ — before submitting a complaint, the complainant must have taken the relevant administrative steps with the institution(s) concerned.

A complaint may be classified as confidential upon request of the complainant or on the initiative of the Ombudsman if the latter considers it to be necessary to protect the interests of the complainant or of a third party.

Next steps

  • 1.

    If, after initial investigation, the Ombudsman finds that a complaint is admissible and that there are grounds for an inquiry, they inform the institution or body concerned and ask it to submit an opinion within a specified time limit (normally no more than 3 months).

  • 2.

    The Ombudsman sends that opinion to the complainant who may submit comments within a specified time limit (normally no more than 1 month).

  • 3.

    The Ombudsman may make further inquiries. After completion of the inquiries, the Ombudsman closes the case with a reasoned decision which may contain critical remarks and informs the complainant and the institution or body concerned.

  • 4.

    The Ombudsman may close the case with a report containing draft recommendations to the institution or body concerned which is then sent to the complainant and the institution or body concerned. The institution or body concerned then has 3 months to send the Ombudsman a detailed opinion which may, for example, list the measures taken to implement the draft recommendations.

  • 5.

    The Ombudsman may decide to prepare a special report to the European Parliament if the detailed opinion is not satisfactory. That special report may contain recommendations. It is also sent to the complainant and to the institution or body concerned.

  • 6.

    If, in the course of an inquiry, matters of criminal law come to the notice of the Ombudsman, the latter must immediately inform the national authorities, the EU institution responsible for fighting fraud, and, if appropriate, the EU institution or body for which the civil servant or agent in question works.

  • 7.

    The Ombudsman also submits to the European Parliament an annual report on their activities, including the outcome of their inquiries.

Implementing rules

The implementing provisions of this decision were adopted by the Ombudsman on 8 July 2002 and last amended on 3 December 2008.

FROM WHEN DOES THE DECISION APPLY?

It entered into force on 4 May 1994.

BACKGROUND

European Ombudsman's website

ACT

Decision 94/262/ECSC, EC, Euratom of the European Parliament of 9 March 1994 on the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the Ombudsman’s duties (OJ L 113, 4.5.1994, pp. 15-18)

Successive amendments to Decision 94/262/ECSC, EC, Euratom have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference only.

RELATED ACTS

Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents (OJ L 145, 31.5.2001, pp. 43-48)

last update 04.02.2016

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