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Decision on how the European Commission replied to a complaint alleging that Ireland breached EU rules on the European Enforcement Order for uncontested claims (1108/2022/KT)

Dear Mr X,

In June 2022, you submitted a complaint to the European Ombudsman against the European Commission concerning the above issue.

In your complaint to the Commission, you contended that, based on an illegally issued European Enforcement Order by the Irish courts, your property in Hungary has been seized and your rights as an EU citizen have been violated.

In your complaint to the Ombudsman, you claim that the Commission has failed to intervene to withdraw the above order or to rectify your situation. You further claim that, in the absence of the Commission’s intervention, you should be compensated by the EU and you state that you have exhausted all national remedies in both Hungary and Ireland.

After careful analysis of all the information submitted to us, we have decided to close the inquiry with the following conclusion:

There was no maladministration by the European Commission.[1]

The Commission has wide discretion in dealing with infringement complaints.[2] Its policy and priorities when dealing with infringements of EU law are set out in its communication EU law: Better results through better application[3]. The role of the Ombudsman in cases concerning infringement complaints is to ensure that the Commission has acted within the limits of its wide discretion, has followed its guidelines for handling infringement complaints and its relations with complainants, has explained why it has taken a particular position on a complaint and that it made no manifest error of assessment. However, the Ombudsman cannot interfere in the Commission’s exercise of its discretion in how it dealt with the substance of an infringement complaint.

In addition, the Commission is not obliged to engage with a complainant on every issue or argument raised in the infringement complaint. Rather, it suffices that the Commission explains clearly why it has taken the position it has taken.

In terms of the procedure for dealing with your complaint, we note that the Commission gave you the opportunity to comment on its position before it closed the case. As such, the Commission acted in accordance with its guidelines.

By its letters of February 2019 and January 2022, the Commission informed you that it does not generally intervene in individual cases, but only in cases of systemic and persistent infringements of the EU law. It also stated that it does not and cannot act on behalf of complainants and that they should pursue their claims individually in court. The Commission said that, in this instance, there was no indication of a systemic infringement of EU law by Ireland and thus there were no grounds for it to take action.

The Commission also stated that the issue of European Enforcement Orders is governed by Regulation 805/2004[4], and it advised you that, in order to have such an order rectified or withdrawn, an application would have to be made in accordance with Regulation 805/2004[5], that is, before a national court in Ireland (the Member State where the order originated). It also pointed out the possibility to apply to the Hungarian enforcement authorities for a stay of the enforcement proceedings based on Regulation 805/2004[6]. In addition, the Commission said that there are very limited grounds open to authorities in Member States enforcing such orders to refuse their enforcement and that, in its view, none of those grounds applied in this case.

There is no indication that the Commission made a manifest error in its assessment of the applicable law and the remedies available to you at both national level and before the European Court of Human Rights. The fact that your application before the Irish High Court to withdraw the enforcement order was rejected or that the Hungarian Supreme Court rejected an application for a preliminary ruling to the EU Court of Justice[7] does not call the Commission’s position into question.

As regards your claim for compensation, please note that the Ombudsman has no authority to award damages. This falls solely within the jurisdiction of the EU Courts under Article 340 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union and only when you can satisfy the conditions laid down by the case law of those Courts.

In light of the above, we consider that the Commission provided you with clear information and reasons as regards why it closed your infringement complaint. We find the Commission’s position on this matter reasonable.

While you may be disappointed with the outcome of the case, we hope that you will find the above explanations helpful.

Yours sincerely,

Tina Nilsson
Head of the Case-handling Unit

Strasbourg, 02/12/2022

 

[1] Full information on the procedure and rights pertaining to complaints can be found at https://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/document/70707.  

[2] See judgment of the Court of 14 February 1989, 247/87, Starfruit v Commission.

[3] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52017XC0119(01)&from=EN

[4] Regulation (EC) No 805/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 creating a European Enforcement Order for uncontested claims, available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A02004R0805-20221026

[5] Article 10(1)(b).

[6] Article 23(e).

[7] Under Article 267 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union.