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What does the European Ombudsman do?

The European Ombudsman investigates complaints against the institutions and bodies of the European Union (EU). You can complain to the Ombudsman about maladministration in the activities of these institutions and bodies.

The European Ombudsman cannot investigate complaints against national, regional or local administrations in the Member States, even when the complaints are about EU matters. Many of these complaints could be addressed to national or regional ombudsmen or committees on petitions in national or regional parliaments. Contact details for all national and regional ombudsmen and committees on petitions in the EU are available on the European Ombudsman's website: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu

What is maladministration?

Maladministration means poor or failed administration. This occurs if an institution fails to act in accordance with the law, fails to respect the principles of good administration, or violates human rights. Some examples are:

  • administrative irregularities
  • unfairness
  • discrimination
  • abuse of power
  • failure to reply
  • refusal of information
  • unnecessary delay

 

What are the institutions and bodies of the EU?

The institutions and bodies of the EU include the:

  • European Parliament
  • Council of the European Union
  • European Commission
  • Court of Justice of the European Communities (except in its judicial role)
  • European Court of Auditors
  • European Economic and Social Committee
  • Committee of the Regions of the European Union
  • European Investment Bank
  • European Central Bank
  • European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO)
  • European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)
  • European Police Office (Europol)
  • Decentralised agencies (such as the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, the European Environment Agency, the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market, etc.)

Please note that this list is not exhaustive. An overview of the EU institutions and bodies is available on the Europa website: http://www.europa.eu/

Who can complain to the Ombudsman?

If you are a citizen of a Member State of the Union or reside in a Member State, you can make a complaint to the European Ombudsman about maladministration in the activities of the EU institutions and bodies. Businesses, associations or other bodies with a registered office in the Union may also complain to the Ombudsman.

What result can you expect?

The Ombudsman may simply need to inform the institution concerned about a complaint in order for it to resolve the problem. If the case is not resolved satisfactorily during the course of the inquiries, the Ombudsman will try, if possible, to find a friendly solution which puts right the case of maladministration and satisfies the complainant. If the attempt at conciliation fails, the Ombudsman can make recommendations to solve the case. If the institution does not accept his recommendations, he can make a special report to the European Parliament.

How to complain

Write to the Ombudsman in any of the Treaty languages(1) setting out clearly who you are, which EU institution or body you are complaining against and the grounds for your complaint.

  • A complaint must be made within two years of the date when you became aware of the facts on which your complaint is based.
  • You need not be individually affected by the maladministration.
  • You must already have contacted the institution or body concerned about the matter, for example by a letter.
  • The Ombudsman does not deal with matters that are currently before a court or that have already been settled by a court.

The Ombudsman will examine your complaint, and you will be informed of the outcome of his investigation.

A complaint can be made by writing a letter to the European Ombudsman or by using the form enclosed. An electronic version of this complaint form is available on the Ombudsman's website: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu

How to contact the European Ombudsman

  • By mail
    The European Ombudsman
    1 Avenue du Président Robert Schuman
    CS 30403
    FR-67001 Strasbourg Cedex
    France
  • By telephone
    +33 (0) 3 88 17 23 13
  • By fax
    +33 (0) 3 88 17 90 62
  • Website
    http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu

(1) Since 1 January 2007, there have been 23 Treaty languages: Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, and Swedish.