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The European Commission's linguistic policy concerning public consultations

Available languages: bg.es.cs.da.de.et.el.en.fr.ga.it.lv.lt.hu.mt.nl.pl.pt.ro.sk.sl.fi.sv
  • Case: 640/2011/AN
    Opened on 14 Apr 2011 - Recommendation on 24 Nov 2011 - Decision on 04 Oct 2012
  • Institution(s) concerned: European Commission
  • Field(s) of law: Taxation
  • Types of maladministration alleged – (i) breach of, or (ii) breach of duties relating to: Absence of discrimination [Article 5 ECGAB],Proportionality [Article 6 ECGAB]
  • Subject matter(s): Institutional and policy matters
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Summary of the decision on complaint 640/2011/AN against the European Commission

The complainant, a Spanish lawyer, complained to the European Ombudsman about the fact that the European Commission published a public consultation in English only.

The Ombudsman opened an inquiry not only into the issue of the lack of availability of the particular consultation mentioned by the complainant in languages other than English, but also into the general issue of the Commission's language policy in public consultation procedures. The Ombudsman's inquiry revealed that very few public consultations were issued in all the EU official languages. Moreover, there was no predictable language pattern, inasmuch as several consultations aimed at the general public were issued in one or a very limited number of languages. These constituted instances of maladministration.

The Ombudsman made a draft recommendation to the Commission, to the effect that it should publish all its consultations in all the official languages of the EU, or provide citizens with a translation upon request. He also recommended that the Commission draft clear, objective and reasonable guidelines concerning the use of the Treaty languages in its public consultations, which should be made known to citizens.

The Commission rejected the Ombudsman's first draft recommendation. As regards the second, it took note of the Ombudsman's observations about inconsistencies in the use of the official languages and undertook to work towards a more coherent language policy concerning public consultations. The Ombudsman considered that the Commission failed properly to implement his draft recommendations. Given that the European Parliament had just adopted a Resolution on "Public consultations and their availability in all EU languages", which covered the scope of the Ombudsman's draft recommendations, the Ombudsman did not find it appropriate to submit a Special Report to Parliament. He thus closed the inquiry with a critical remark. The Ombudsman informed Parliament of his decision, so that it could be taken into consideration when Parliament assesses the Commission's response to its Resolution.