The European Ombudsman
Charter of Fundamental Rights
European Parliament Decision 94/262/ECSC, EC, Euratom – regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the Ombudsman’s duties
It establishes the conditions under which the European Ombudsman works.It entered into force on 4 May 1994.
Status and appointment
The Ombudsman has a specific legal status in the treaties (Article 228 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).
The Ombudsman is elected by the European Parliament for a single parliamentary term of 5 years but may be re-elected.
The Ombudsman acts independently and accepts no instructions from any government or other organisation.
During the term of the mandate, the Ombudsman cannot hold any other political or administrative post, whether paid or unpaid.
The main role of the Ombudsman is to investigate cases of maladministration by EU institutions and bodies.
EU institutions and bodies must provide the Ombudsman with all the information that is required and must indicate if any of that information is classified (access to classified information is regulated by the security rules of the institution or body concerned, set out in Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001).
EU countries may have to provide information to the Ombudsman. If that information is covered by secrecy laws, the Ombudsman must not divulge it further.
The Ombudsman may act either on their own initiative or following a complaint.
Limit of authority
The Court of Justice of the European Union is outside the scope of the Ombudsman’s powers when it is carrying out its judicial function.
The Ombudsman does not have the power to investigate cases of maladministration by national, regional or local governments in the EU countries.
Cases already brought before a court and questions on the soundness of a court decision are also outside the Ombudsman’s remit.
Making a complaint
A complaint to the Ombudsman must meet the following conditions.
It must be submitted by an EU citizen, a person residing in an EU country or a body such as an NGO, a foundation or a company with a registered office in an EU country (legal persons).
It must be written in one of the 24 treaty languages.
It must relate solely to a case of maladministration on the part of an EU institution or body. ‘Maladministration’ means, for example, an abuse of power, administrative irregularities, discrimination, etc.
It must be lodged within 2 years of the date on which the person making the complaint (the complainant) became aware of the facts.
It must be the ‘last resort’ — before submitting a complaint, the complainant must have taken the relevant administrative steps with the institution(s) concerned.
A complaint may be classified as confidential upon request of the complainant or on the initiative of the Ombudsman if the latter considers it to be necessary to protect the interests of the complainant or of a third party.
1.If, after initial investigation, the Ombudsman finds that a complaint is admissible and that there are grounds for an inquiry, they inform the institution or body concerned and ask it to submit an opinion within a specified time limit (normally no more than 3 months).
2.The Ombudsman sends that opinion to the complainant who may submit comments within a specified time limit (normally no more than 1 month).
3.The Ombudsman may make further inquiries. After completion of the inquiries, the Ombudsman closes the case with a reasoned decision which may contain critical remarks and informs the complainant and the institution or body concerned.
4.The Ombudsman may close the case with a report containing draft recommendations to the institution or body concerned which is then sent to the complainant and the institution or body concerned. The institution or body concerned then has 3 months to send the Ombudsman a detailed opinion which may, for example, list the measures taken to implement the draft recommendations.
5.The Ombudsman may decide to prepare a special report to the European Parliament if the detailed opinion is not satisfactory. That special report may contain recommendations. It is also sent to the complainant and to the institution or body concerned.
6.If, in the course of an inquiry, matters of criminal law come to the notice of the Ombudsman, the latter must immediately inform the national authorities, the EU institution responsible for fighting fraud, and, if appropriate, the EU institution or body for which the civil servant or agent in question works.
7.The Ombudsman also submits to the European Parliament an annual report on their activities, including the outcome of their inquiries.
The implementing provisions of this decision were adopted by the Ombudsman on 8 July 2002 and last amended on 3 December 2008.
Decision 94/262/ECSC, EC, Euratom of the European Parliament of 9 March 1994 on the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the Ombudsman’s duties (OJ L 113, 4.5.1994, pp. 15-18)
Successive amendments to Decision 94/262/ECSC, EC, Euratom have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference only.
Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents (OJ L 145, 31.5.2001, pp. 43-48)
last update 04.02.2016
Article 289 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union
It reforms the EU’s previous decision-making process, thus strengthening its capacity to take decisions and action.
Article 289 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) concerns 2 types of legislative procedure:
ordinary legislative procedure
special legislative procedure.
Ordinary legislative procedure
Under the ordinary legislative procedure, the European Parliament is a co-legislator with the Council. Originally introduced under the Maastricht Treaty, when it was called the co-decision procedure, this procedure is now the most widely used method of EU decision-making. The TFEU changes its name and extends it to cover areas of policy such as:
judicial cooperation in civil matters,
humanitarian aid, and
measures on external border controls, asylum and immigration.
The operation of the ordinary legislative procedure is described in detail in Article 294 TFEU. The Parliament and the Council legislate on an equal footing. The 2 institutions adopt legislative acts either at first reading or at second reading. If, following the second reading, the 2 institutions have still not reached an agreement, a Conciliation Committee is convened.
Under the ordinary legislative procedure, decisions are adopted by qualified majority, which is a system that ensures:
that a decision is carried out when there is both a majority of EU countries (55% in most cases, but 72% in some); and
that these countries represent at least 65% of the EU’s population.
The TFEU also introduces ‘passerelle clauses’. These clauses enable the ordinary legislative procedure to be used in other areas normally outside its scope, under certain conditions.
Special legislative procedures
Special legislative procedures, as their name implies, are the exception from the ordinary legislative procedure. These are used in certain more sensitive policy areas. Unlike in the case of the ordinary legislative procedure, the TFEU does not give a precise description of special legislative procedures. The rules for these are therefore defined on a case-by-case basis by the treaty articles that lay down the conditions for their implementation.
Under special legislative procedures, the Council is, in practice, the sole legislator. The Parliament is simply associated with the procedure. Its role is thus limited to consultation (such as under Article 89 TFEU concerning cross-border police operations) or consent (such as under Article 86 TFEU concerning the European Public Prosecutor’s Office) depending on the case.
How EU decisions are made (European Commission)
The ordinary legislative procedure (Council)
Special legislative procedures (Council)
Legislative powers (European Parliament).
Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union — Part Six: Institutional and financial provisions — Title I: Institutional provisions — Chapter 2: Legal acts of the Union, adoption procedures and other provisions — Section 1: The legal acts of the Union (Article 289) (OJ C 202, 7.6.2016, p. 172)