The case concerned how the European Commission monitors and ensures respect for fundamental rights by the Croatian authorities in the context of border management operations supported by EU funds. The inquiry examined whether, in line with a commitment made by the Commission, emergency assistance disbursed to Croatia was accompanied by the creation of a monitoring mechanism to ensure that the border management measures fully comply with fundamental rights and EU asylum laws.
The Ombudsman found that the Commission created confusion in how it communicated about the monitoring mechanism in the context of the emergency assistance. Moreover, only in summer 2021, was an independent monitoring mechanism to oversee protection of fundamental rights created. This was regrettable.
In closing the inquiry, the Ombudsman urged the Commission to monitor fully whether the mechanism is indeed independent and effective in ensuring compliance with fundamental rights and EU law. The Ombudsman made a suggestion for improvement concerning the Commission's communication around the monitoring mechanism. The Ombudsman also invited the Commission to take an active role in the context of the monitoring mechanism, and to require the Croatian authorities to provide concrete and verifiable information on steps taken to investigate reports of collective expulsions and mistreatment of migrants and asylum seekers. Lastly, the Ombudsman asked the Commission to inform her within one year of the steps it has taken to strengthen fundamental rights compliance in border operations receiving EU funds.