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Implementing provisions

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Decision of the European Ombudsman adopting implementing provisions(1)

Article 1  : Definitions

In these implementing provisions,

(a) "institution concerned" means the Community institution or body which is the object of a complaint or an own initiative inquiry;

(b) "the Statute" means the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the Ombudsman's duties;

(c) in relation to documents and information, "confidential" means "not to be disclosed".

Article 2  : Receipt of complaints

2.1. Complaints are identified, registered and numbered upon receipt.

2.2. An acknowledgement of receipt is sent to the complainant, quoting the registration number of the complaint and identifying the legal officer who is dealing with the case.

2.3. A petition transferred to the Ombudsman by the European Parliament with the consent of the petitioner is treated as a complaint.

2.4. In appropriate cases and with the consent of the complainant, the Ombudsman may transfer a complaint to the European Parliament to be dealt with as a petition.

2.5. In appropriate cases and with the consent of the complainant, the Ombudsman may transfer a complaint to another competent authority.

Article 3  : Admissibility of complaints

3.1. On the basis of the criteria laid down in the Treaty and the Statute, the Ombudsman determines whether a complaint is within his mandate and if so, whether it is admissible; he may request the complainant to provide further information or documents before making the determination.

3.2. If a complaint is outside the mandate, or inadmissible, the Ombudsman closes the file on the complaint. He informs the complainant of his decision and of the reasons for it. The Ombudsman may advise the complainant to apply to another authority.

Article 4  : Inquiries into admissible complaints

4.1. The Ombudsman decides whether there are sufficient grounds to justify making inquiries into an admissible complaint.

4.2. If he does not find sufficient grounds to justify making inquiries, the Ombudsman closes the file on the complaint and informs the complainant accordingly. The Ombudsman may also inform the institution concerned.

4.3. If the Ombudsman finds sufficient grounds to justify making inquiries, he informs the complainant and the institution concerned. He transmits a copy of the complaint to the institution concerned and invites it to submit an opinion within a specified time that is normally no more than three months. The invitation to the institution concerned may specify particular aspects of the complaint, or specific issues, to which the opinion should be addressed.

4.4. The opinion shall not include any information or documents which the institution concerned regards as confidential.

4.5. The institution concerned may request that certain parts of its opinion be disclosed only to the complainant. It shall clearly identify the parts concerned and shall explain the reason or reasons for its request.

4.6. The Ombudsman sends the opinion of the institution concerned to the complainant. The complainant has the opportunity to submit observations to the Ombudsman, within a specified time that is normally no more than one month.

4.7. If he considers it useful to do so, the Ombudsman makes further inquiries. Points 4.3 to 4.6 apply to further inquiries, save that the time limit for the institution concerned to reply is normally one month.

4.8. Where he considers it appropriate to do so, the Ombudsman may use a simplified procedure, with a view to achieving a rapid solution.

4.9. When he has completed his inquiries. the Ombudsman closes the case with a reasoned decision and informs the complainant and the institution concerned.

Article 5  : Powers of investigation

5.1. Subject to the conditions laid down in the Statute, the Ombudsman may require Community institutions and bodies and the authorities of Member States to supply, within a reasonable time, information or documents for the purposes of an inquiry. They shall clearly identify any information or documents which they regard as confidential.

5.2. The Ombudsman may inspect the file of the institution concerned. The institution concerned shall clearly identify any documents in the file which it regards as confidential. The Ombudsman may take copies of the whole file or of specific documents contained in the file. The Ombudsman informs the complainant that an inspection has taken place.

5.3. The Ombudsman may require officials or other servants of Community institutions or bodies to give evidence under the conditions laid down in the Statute. The Ombudsman may decide that the person giving evidence shall do so in confidence.

5.4. The Ombudsman may request Community institutions and bodies to make arrangements for him to pursue his inquiries on the spot.

5.5. The Ombudsman may commission such studies or expert reports, as he considers necessary to the success of an inquiry.

Article 6  : Friendly solutions

6.1. If the Ombudsman finds maladministration, as far as possible he co-operates with the institution concerned in seeking a friendly solution to eliminate it and to satisfy the complainant.

6.2. If the Ombudsman considers that such cooperation has been successful, he closes the case with a reasoned decision. He informs the complainant and the institution concerned of the decision.

6.3. If the Ombudsman considers that a friendly solution is not possible, or that the search for a friendly solution has been unsuccessful, he either closes the case with a reasoned decision that may include a critical remark or makes a report with draft recommendations.

Article 7  : Critical remarks

7.1 The Ombudsman makes a critical remark if he considers:

(a) that it is no longer possible for the institution concerned to eliminate the instance of maladministration and

(b) that the instance of maladministration has no general implications.

7.2. When the Ombudsman closes the case with a critical remark, he informs the complainant and the institution concerned.

Article 8  : Reports and recommendations

8.1. The Ombudsman makes a report with draft recommendations to the institution concerned if he considers either

(a) that it is possible for the institution concerned to eliminate the instance of maladministration, or

(b) that the instance of maladministration has general implications.

8.2. The Ombudsman sends a copy of his report and draft recommendations to the institution concerned and to the complainant.

8.3. The institution concerned sends the Ombudsman a detailed opinion within three months. The detailed opinion could consist of acceptance of the Ombudsman's decision and a description of the measures taken to implement the draft recommendations.

8.4. If the Ombudsman does not consider that the detailed opinion is satisfactory he may draw up a special report to the European Parliament in relation to the instance of maladministration. The report may contain recommendations. The Ombudsman sends a copy of the report to the institution concerned and to the complainant.

Article 9  : Own-initiative inquiries

9.1. The Ombudsman may decide to undertake inquiries on his own initiative.

9.2. The Ombudsman's powers of investigation when conducting own initiative inquiries are the same as in inquiries instituted following a complaint.

9.3. The procedures followed in inquiries instituted following a complaint also apply, by analogy, to own initiative inquiries.

Article 10  : Points of procedure

10.1. If the complainant so requests, the Ombudsman classifies a complaint as confidential. If he considers that it is necessary to protect the interests of the complainant or of a third party, the Ombudsman may classify a complaint as confidential on his own initiative.

10.2. If he considers it appropriate to do so, the Ombudsman may take steps to ensure that a complaint is dealt with as a matter of priority.

10.3. If legal proceedings are instituted in relation to matters under investigation by the Ombudsman, he closes the case. The outcome of any inquiries he has carried out up to that point is filed without further action.

10.4. The Ombudsman informs the relevant national authorities and if appropriate, a Community institution or body of such criminal law matters as may come to his notice in the course of an inquiry. The Ombudsman may also inform a Community institution or body of facts which, in his view, could justify disciplinary proceedings.

Article 11  : Reports to the European Parliament

11.1. The Ombudsman submits an annual report to the European Parliament on his activities as a whole, including the outcome of his inquiries.

11.2. As well as special reports made under Article 8.4 above, the Ombudsman may make such other special reports to the European Parliament as he thinks appropriate to fulfil his responsibilities under the Treaties and the Statute.

11.3. The annual and special reports of the Ombudsman may contain such recommendations as he thinks appropriate to fulfil his responsibilities under the Treaties and the Statute.

Article 12  : Cooperation with ombudsmen and similar bodies in Member States

The Ombudsman may work in conjunction with ombudsmen and similar bodies in the Member States with a view to enhancing the effectiveness both of his own inquiries and of those carried out by ombudsmen and similar bodies in the Member States and of making more effective provision for safeguarding rights and interests under European Union and European Community law.

Article 13  : The complainant's right to see the file

13.1. The complainant shall be entitled to see the Ombudsman’s file on his or her complaint, subject to Article 13.3 below.

13.2. The complainant may exercise the right to see the file on the spot. He or she may request the Ombudsman to supply a copy of the whole file, or of specific documents in the file.

13.3. The complainant shall not have access to:

(a) documents or information obtained by virtue of Article 5.1 or 5.2 above which have been identified to the Ombudsman as confidential;

(b) evidence given in confidence in accordance with Article 5.3 above.

Article 14  : Public access to documents held by the Ombudsman

14.1. . The public shall have access to documents held by the Ombudsman, which do not relate to inquiries, subject to the same conditions and limits as those laid down by Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001(2) for public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.

14.2. The public may request access to inquiry-related documents held by the Ombudsman, provided that the complaint has not been classified as confidential at the request of the complainant, or by the Ombudsman pursuant to Article 10.1 above. Access shall not be given to:

(a) documents or information obtained by virtue of Article 5.1 or 5.2 above which have been identified to the Ombudsman as confidential;

(b) evidence given in confidence, in accordance with Article 5.3 above;

(c) those parts of its opinion and replies to any further inquiries which, in accordance with Article 4.5 above, the institution concerned has requested should be disclosed only to the complainant. The applicant shall be informed of the reason or reasons which the institution concerned has given for its request;

(d) a document the disclosure of which would prejudice the integrity of an on-going inquiry.

14.3. Applications for access to documents shall be made in writing (letter, fax or e-mail) and in a sufficiently precise manner to enable the document to be identified.

14.4. Access is given on the spot or by providing a copy. The Ombudsman may impose reasonable charges for the supply of copies. The method of calculation of any charge is explained.

14.5. Decisions on applications for public access are made within 15 working days from receipt. In exceptional cases, the time-limit may be extended by 15 working days; the applicant is notified in advance of the extension and detailed reasons are given.

14.6. If an application for access to a document is refused in whole or in part reasons are given for the refusal.

Article 15  : Languages

15.1. A complaint may be submitted to the Ombudsman in any of the Treaty languages. The Ombudsman is not required to deal with complaints submitted in other languages.

15.2. The language of proceedings conducted by the Ombudsman is one of the Treaty languages; in the case of a complaint, the language in which it is written.

15.3. The Ombudsman determines which documents are to be drawn up in the language of the proceedings.

Article 16  : Publication of reports

16.1. The European Ombudsman shall publish in the Official Journal announcements concerning the adoption of annual and special reports, making public the means for all interested to have access to the full text of the documents.

16.2. Any reports or summaries of the Ombudsman’s decisions concerning confidential complaints are published in a form that does not allow the complainant to be identified.

Article 17  : Entry into force

17.1. The implementing provisions adopted on 16 October 1997 are repealed.

17.2. This decision shall come into effect on 1 January 2003.

17.3. The President of the European Parliament shall be informed of the adoption of this decision. An announcement shall also be published in the Official Journal.

(1)Adopted on 8 July 2002 and amended by decisions of the Ombudsman of 5 April 2004 and 3 December 2008.
(2)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, p. 43).