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Summary of the decision in case 64/2017/NF on a European Commission public consultation not being available in all official EU languages

Available languages: bg.es.cs.da.de.et.el.en.fr.ga.hr.it.lv.lt.hu.mt.nl.pl.pt.ro.sk.sl.fi.sv
  • Case: 64/2017/NF
    Opened on 03 Feb 2017 - Decision on 07 Dec 2017
  • Institution(s) concerned: European Commission

A German association representing consumer interests complained about the European Commission’s decision to conduct a public consultation for the wider public in English only. The complainant contended that the Commission’s decision meant that EU citizens who do not have a sufficient knowledge of English could not take part in the public consultation.

Given that the public consultation in question was about to close, the Ombudsman immediately, upon opening her inquiry, asked the Commission to extend the consultation period and to provide the complainant with a German translation of the consultation documents. The Ombudsman also asked the Commission to allow other citizens to request translations into their preferred EU language.

The Commission responded by stating that it was committed to the principle of multilingualism. However, as its translation resources were limited, it said it could not accept the Ombudsman’s solution proposal. It argued that to do so would set a precedent that the Commission would have difficulties in honouring.

The Ombudsman regrets that the Commission did not accept her proposal for an immediate solution in this specific case. The Ombudsman finds that the Commission’s decision to conduct the public consultation in English only constituted maladministration.

However, the Ombudsman notes that, had the new rules on public consultations recently adopted by the Commission applied in this case, the public consultation in question would have been made available in at least German, English, and French and possibly even in all official EU languages. Moreover, there is currently an ongoing Ombudsman inquiry into the Commission’s general language regime for public consultations. Against that background, the Ombudsman takes the view that it would serve no useful purpose to continue the inquiry, or to make a recommendation, in the present case.