The European Ombudsman is an important EU institution, established by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. It aims to improve the protection of citizens and the openness and democratic accountability of the EU institutions.
The term ombudsman is a borrowing from the Swedish word ombudsman, a legal representative investigating complaints about governmental maladministration. It derives from the Old Swedish words umboþ (commission, order) and man (man).
The European Ombudsman is responsible for investigating complaints about poor or maladministration by EU institutions and bodies. EU citizens and EU residents, but also EU-based associations and businesses can file these complaints. However, the Ombudsman can also start an investigation on his or her own initiative.
A complaint can be made, if certain criteria are met. For example, the Ombudsman has to be contacted within two years after encountering the problem and there has to have been an effort to solve the problem with the institution involved.
If there are signs for poor administration, meaning unfair conduct, discrimination, abuse of power, refusal to provide information, unnecessary delays, or incorrect procedures, the Ombudsman takes action and investigates the case. The Ombudsman informs the said institution and tries to find a mutual solution. He or she can also make recommendations to the institution. If the institution ignores these recommendations, the Ombudsman sends a special report to the European Parliament, which has to react to it in an appropriate manner.
The Ombudsman is an independent and impartial institution that does not follow orders from any government or other organisation. Every 5 years, the Ombudsman is elected by the European Parliament. It is one of the EP’s first tasks after the elections. The current Ombudsman is Emily O’Reilly. She was elected in July 2013 and is reaching the end of her second term.
If you want to learn more about the European Ombudsman, check out the video below.
European Ombudsman. https://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/home. Accessed May 10, 2019.
Discover the story of EnglishMore than 600,000 words, over a thousand years. Home : Oxford English Dictionary. https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/131181?redirectedFrom=Ombudsman#eid. Accessed May 10, 2019.
European Ombudsman. European Union. https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/institutions-bodies/european-ombudsman_en. Published February 13, 2019. Accessed May 10, 2019.
How we work at the European Ombudsman. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tY_4YEyFxyM. Published December 19, 2013. Accessed May 10, 2019.
The European Ombudsman | Fact Sheets on the European Union | European Parliament. The European Ombudsman | Fact Sheets on the European Union | European Parliament. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/factsheets/en/sheet/18/the-european-ombudsman. Accessed May 10, 2019.
Written by Annemarie Menger – Communication Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg) and a student of the Master’s Program in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg. She holds a teacher’s degree in the form of the First German State Examination for Elementary Education, a BA in Cultural Basic Skills and an additional degree in Global Systems and Intercultural Competence from the University of Würzburg.
Supported by Robine Bonsenge – Study Visitor in Communication at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg) and currently enrolled in the Master in Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Contexts at the University of Luxembourg. She holds a Bachelor degree in European Cultures (French section). She speaks French, English, Lingala, Dutch and she is learning German.