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Compliance with fundamental rights in the implementation of EU cohesion policy

Summary of the decision on own-initiative inquiry OI/8/2014/AN concerning the European Commission

This own-initiative inquiry concerns how the European Commission ensures that the fundamental rights enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union are complied with when EU cohesion policy is implemented by Member States. It was launched as the Union embarked on a new seven-year period of funding, covering 2014-2020, under a new legal framework.

EU cohesion policy seeks to reduce disparities between the levels of development of the various regions in the EU. Given the visibility of the Union in the projects that are funded through the cohesion policy – from improving emergency services in Romania to removing minefields in Croatia – the Ombudsman believes that the Commission should do all in its power to ensure respect for fundamental rights as the money is spent. The fact that the Commission is not directly responsible for managing the funds should never be used as a reason for not acting if fundamental rights have been, or risk being violated.

The own-initiative inquiry has involved the Commission, national ombudsmen and representatives of civil society. On the basis of their feedback, the Ombudsman has produced eight guidelines for improvement to support the Commission as it supervises the Member States in this area.