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Infringements of EU law and the role of the European Ombudsman

Under the EU Treaties, the European Commission is responsible for making sure that all Member States properly apply EU law. It does this on the basis of its own investigations or following complaints from individuals or legal persons about breaches of EU law (more information on infringement proceedings)

The Commission has wide discretion in deciding whether and when to initiate an infringement procedure. When dealing with infringement complaints, the Commission must comply with certain rules. (more information)

Citizens and legal persons may turn to the Ombudsman when they consider that the Commission has not properly handled an infringement complaint, for example, when the Commission has failed to deal with the complaint in a timely manner or has failed to keep them informed of its steps.

However, when it comes to the substantive position that the Commission takes on an infringement complaint, such as the decision to close the case with no action, the Ombudsman’s role is limited due to the Commission’s wide discretion. In such cases, the Ombudsman may seek to ensure that the Commission has explained its position properly but the Ombudsman will ask the Commission to review its decision only if there is indication of a manifest error.