European Ombudsman

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Emily O'Reilly

The European Ombudsman (also European Ombudsman ) is the European Union's Ombudsman, who has its official seat in Strasbourg and investigates complaints about maladministration by its institutions , bodies and offices. Its activity is based on Article 228 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and the decision of the European Parliament (“Statute of the European Ombudsman”) of 9 March 1994 on the regulations and general conditions for the performance of the Ombudsman's duties .


The institution of the Ombudsman has its roots in Sweden . There the constitution was reformed in 1809 . The new constitution gave parliament the power to appoint an ombudsman or ombudsman who was independent of the king and any other administration that could be complained about.

Finland gained independence in 1919 and also established the office of Ombudsman. Denmark followed in 1953, New Zealand and Norway in 1962 . In 1995, when the European Community elected the first Ombudsman, there were already 75 of his colleagues worldwide, 27 of them in Europe .

In 1979, shortly after its first direct election , the European Parliament asked for a European Ombudsman to be appointed. The proposal was also included in the 1985 report of the Committee for a Citizens' Europe . But it was not until 1990, when the Spanish Prime Minister at the time, Felipe González, raised the idea of European citizenship in a letter to his colleagues in the European Council , that the debate got going. In the Maastricht Treaty (1994) the institution of the Ombudsman was created and on July 12, 1995 the European Parliament elected the first incumbent, the Finn Jacob Söderman . The original legal basis of the office was Art. 8d (= Art. 21 ) and Art. 138e (= Art. 195 ) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (Art. 20d ECSC Treaty, Art. 107d Euratom ).

Task and responsibilities

According to Art. 228 TFEU, the European Ombudsman investigates complaints about the administrative activities of the institutions , bodies , offices and agencies of the European Union.

It is not responsible for complaints about national, regional or local administrations of the member states or the judicial activities of the European Court of Justice .

Citizens of the Union as well as natural or legal persons residing or having their registered office in a Member State are entitled to appeal . In contrast to the petition to the European Parliament itself according to Art. 227 TFEU, the complainant does not have to be personally affected by the complained of behavior, so a popular complaint is also possible. The complaint is inadmissible if the behavior complained of is or has already been the subject of legal proceedings .


A complaint can be written in one of the official languages ​​of the EU, so since July 1, 2013 in 24 languages . There is a form on the Internet, but informal letters are also possible. The letter must make it clear which grievance is being denounced and against whom the complaint is directed. Particularly at the beginning of the Ombudsman's work, he received a large number of complaints for which he was not competent. The proportion of these complaints is decreasing.

facts and figures

In the first full calendar year, 537 complaints were received, of which 86 fell within the competence of the Ombudsman - just 16%. In 2003 there were already 2,436 complaints, 75% of which were within the mandate of the Ombudsman. The information in the population has therefore greatly improved and the office of the Ombudsman has become much better known.

Most of the complaints, almost 67% in 2003, are directed against the European Commission . 10.7% are against the European Parliament.

The most frequently denounced grievance is a lack of transparency - due to a lack of information or the refusal to provide information. 28% of all complaints have this subject.

Most of the complaints come from Germany (18%), followed by Spain (12%).


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Press release No. 12/2013. The European Ombudsman, 11 July 2013, accessed on 8 September 2013 (text begins with “The European Ombudsman ...”).