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Decision of the European Ombudsman on complaint 281/99/VK against the European Commission

Strasbourg, 17 November 1999

Dear Mr P.,
On 4 March 1999, you made a complaint to the European Ombudsman against the European Central Bank (ECB). You complained that the ECB's Website only contains information in English and not in other Community languages.
On 24 April 1999, I forwarded the complaint to the President of the ECB. The ECB sent its opinion on 18 June 1999 and I forwarded it to you with an invitation to make observations, if you so wished. I did not receive any observations from you.
I am writing now to let you know the results of the inquiries that have been made.


The complainant addressed the Bank's director for external relations, Dr. Manfred Körber, concerning the fact that the information on the European Central Bank's Website is available only in English. In his reply, Dr. Körber referred to the cost of presenting information in all languages. He also stated that the ECB's Website contains links to the Websites of all the national central banks, which could provide the necessary information in the other languages
In his complaint to the Ombudsman, the complainant claimed that the ECB should comply with the same language rules as other Community institutions and that provision of the information on the Website only in English is discriminatory.


The Central Bank's opinion
In its opinion, the ECB stated that its Website has been intended to provide the public with a direct and useful means of communication. Most ECB documents are drafted in English. Publication in English has the advantage of presenting the public with original first-hand information without delay. If documents are prepared in other languages, they are made available on the Website in those languages as well. In addition, all major publications of the ECB, such as the Monthly Bulletin and the Annual Report, are published simultaneously in all Community languages. The ECB also provides different language versions via links to the Websites of the national central banks.
The ECB stated that, in view not only of the need for optimum efficiency and timeliness, but also of budgetary constraints, it considered that the solution it has adopted is a justifiable compromise for the time being. The Bank also pointed out that it was established only just over one year ago and that it was confident that first steps in the direction suggested by the complainant would become visible in due course.
The complainant's observations
The complainant did not make any observations.


1. The complainant alleged that the provision of information on the ECB's Website only in English is discriminatory. He considered that the ECB should comply with the same language rules as other Community institutions.
2 The ECB explained that most of its documents are drafted in English and are published on its Website in English for reasons of cost efficiency and in order to make them public as quickly as possible. Its Website contains links to the Websites of the national central banks, which contain information in other languages.
3 The Ombudsman is not aware that the provisions of Community law concerning use of languages(1) could prevent a Community body publishing on a Website, as a public service, documents in the language in which they are drafted.
4 Effective communication requires that, as far as possible, the Community institutions and bodies should provide information to citizens in their own language. From its opinion, it appears that the ECB envisages a progressive development of the provision of information on its Website in the other Community languages.
5 On the basis of the above, there appears to have been no maladministration by the European Central Bank. The Ombudsman therefore closes the case.


As a service to the citizens, it could be useful for the ECB's Website to explain, in all Community languages, the ECB's information policy and to contain all relevant material, especially legal texts, which already exists in all Community languages.
The President of the European Central Bank will also be informed of this decision.
Yours sincerely
Jacob Söderman

(1) Regulation 1/58 as amended, 1958 OJ L17/385; Article 21 EC.