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Ombudsman: the champion of citizen' equity

pdf mise en ligne :25 11 2008 ( NEA say… n° 57 )


The aim of the European Ombudsman is to warrant that the civil rights ratified by communitarian legislation was respected in all member State of European Union. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration in the activities of Community institutions and bodies, with the exception of the Court of Justice and the Court of First Instance acting in their judicial role.

With the approval of the European Parliament, the Ombudsman has


defined "maladministration" in a way that requires respect for human


rights, for the rule of law and for principles of good administration.


Even if the Ombudsman does not find maladministration, he may identify an opportunity for the institution or body to improve the quality of its administration in the future.

The co-operation of the Community institutions and bodies is essential for success in achieving such outcomes, which help enhance relations between the institutions and citizens.

The European Ombudsman devotes considerable time to meeting with Members and officials of the EU institutions and bodies with a view to promoting a culture of service within the EU administration. These meetings allow the Ombudsman to explain the thinking behind his work and to sensitise Members and officials to the need to respond constructively to complaints.

Since 1 April 2003, promoting good administration has been an absolute priority for the European Ombudsman. It  can finally affirm that last 2007 was  an important year for the European citizens' right to good administration, in fact the EU institutions and bodies worked hard in 2007 to resolve complaints, remedy injustices and rectify mistakes. It can see a doubling in the number of cases settled by the institution concerned an unprecedented 35% of inquiries were closed after the relevant institution agreed to settle the matter and it could not underestimate the importance of this achievement for complainants, and for citizens more generally.

But there is still work to be done in promoting the principles of good administration within the EU institutions and bodies.

Thanks to an ambitious and carefully targeted information campaign, the number of admissible complaints increased in 2007, and, as a result of the efforts to improve information to citizens about what the European Ombudsman can and cannot do, more citizens than ever were helped to find appropriate means of redress at the national, regional and local levels.

In 2007 the best development was the adoption of the European Network of Ombudsmen Statement. That, which includes the Committee on Petitions, consists of roughly 90 offices in 31 countries and co-operates on a daily basis in case handling, and on a continuing basis in sharing experiences and best practice through seminars and meetings, a regular newsletter, an electronic discussion forum and an electronic daily news service. One of the purposes of the Network is to facilitate the rapid transfer of complaints to the competent ombudsman or similar body. When possible, the Ombudsman transfers cases directly or give suitable advice to the complainant.

If an inquiry leads to a finding of maladministration, the Ombudsman tries to achieve a friendly solution whenever possible. In some cases, a friendly solution can be achieved if the institution or body concerned offers compensation to the complainant. Any such offer is made ex gratia, that is, without admission of legal liability and without creating a legal precedent.

If a friendly solution is not possible or if the search for such a solution is unsuccessful, the Ombudsman either closes the case with a critical remark to the institution or body concerned or makes a draft recommendation. And this critical remark confirms to the complainant that his or her complaint is justified and indicates to the institution or body concerned what it has done wrong, so as to help it avoid maladministration in the future. Finally, if a Community institution or body fails to respond satisfactorily to a draft recommendation, the Ombudsman may send a special report to the European Parliament. This constitutes the Ombudsman's ultimate weapon and is the last substantive step he takes in dealing with a case, since the adoption of a resolution and the exercise of Parliament's powers are matters for the latter's political judgment.

Furthermore it has been developing an interactive guide that will be launched the Ombudsman's new website. This key feature will help citizens find the most appropriate avenue of redress for their grievances; so it will be possible resolve more promptly and effectively the complaints, thus ensuring that citizens can fully enjoy their rights under EU law. This Ombudsman's website was regularly updated with decisions, press releases, and details of his communications activities.


Lucia Sirignano

University of Naples



 Links of reference


  • Annual report of European Ombudsman (2007):

EN: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/report/en/default.htm

FR: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/report/fr/default.htm


  • Non legislative report of European Parliament:

EN: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/FindByProcnum.do?lang=2&procnum=INI/2008/2158

FR: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/file.jsp?id=5651122¬iceType=null&language=fr


  • Annual report on European Ombudsman's activities calls for more initiatives to raise citizens' awareness:

EN: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/expert/infopress_page/020-40405-294-10-43-902-20081022IPR40404-20-10-2008-2008-false/default_en.htm

FR: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/expert/infopress_page/020-40405-294-10-43-902-20081022IPR40404-20-10-2008-2008-false/default_fr.htm