The fighter for European rights: Everythnig about the European Ombudsman
The European Ombudsman’s office and its tasks
The Ombudsman Office is an independent and neutral body that was created in order to hold the European Union public administration accountable. External to the European Court, the European Ombudsman investigates complaints about the irregularities and abuses occurring at EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. The Ombudsman can establish such irregularities if the public administration of a given country does not keep to certain legal rules like the ones concerning administration, discrimination, the abuse of power as well as those connected to the failure to inform or respond.
The representative of the European Ombudsman has been Emily O’Reilly since October 2013, who was re-elected in 2014 with a five-year mandate. O’Reilly was the first female Ombudsman in Ireland and worked as an environment protection official in 2007. Originally, she is a journalist, writer and presenter, and she is the recipient of a number of international as well as national awards.
When and how can you submit a complaint with the European Ombudsman?
Every citizen of the EU along with businesses and organisations registered at European Union locations are eligible to submit a complaint. Every complaint that is not related to the EU public administration but is instead related to regional or national administration is outside the scope of the operation of the European Ombudsman, even if the matter is related to the EU.
There are several pre-conditions of submitting a complaint. The deadline for the submission is two years, a time that is counted from the moment the facts forming the basis of the complaint are perceived. Before submitting the complaint, the organisation which is reported must be notified because in this way, the case might be resolved in a less dramatic way. The complaint must be submitted in writing using the so-call complaint form that must be sent to the European Ombudsman electronically or through post.
The power of the Ombudsman and its tools of enquiry
In case the Ombudsman ascertains malpractices, it immediately contacts the institution in question. If a criminal matter arises regarding the case, they have to get in touch with the local authorities and must involve the European Anti-Fraud Office in the investigations as well.
The organisations and institutions under scrutiny must provide adequate information to the Ombudsman, and they must provide every support needed to clarify the issue. The given institution has three months thereafter to inform the Ombudsman about their standpoint, who then notifies those in question as well as the European Parliament about the results of the investigation.
The European Network of Ombudsmen and their activities
The national and regional Ombudsmen located on the territory of the EU play a huge role in guaranteeing that the citizens of the EU can act in accordance with their rights. Together with them, the Office of the European Ombudsman, the European Union’s Petition Committee, and other representatives nominated by the members make up the European Network of Ombudsmen. At the moment, the network comprises of 95 offices in 36 European countries.
The participants of the network keep in touch with the other members through selected representatives. They share their experience through various forums, such as seminars, regular newsletters, electronic debate forums and a so-called extranet service.
The national and regional Ombudsmen’s seminar is organised every second year, and the PR representatives’ seminar in Strasbourg takes places bi-yearly as well. The members of the European Ombudsman receive a newsletter that is published every half a year, with the help of which they can obtain information about the changes in European legislative practices and within the individual bodies. Moreover, they can get a glimpse into the various case management models as well.
The extranet service is operated by the Office of the European Ombudsman, which serves as a question and answer platform where legal questions relevant in the EU can be discussed. The service includes the Ombudsman Newsletter that is published on weekdays and contains various articles, publications and calls of the offices within the network.
You can be an intern with the European Ombudsman
The European Ombudsman offers an internship twice a year. The positions are primarily offered to young people who study or hold a degree in Law, especially those engaged in the field of community rights. The internship lasts for at least 4 months and commences either in September or January. It can be completed in Strasbourg or Brussels, depending on the needs of the office. A working knowledge of the English language is a pre-requisite. The application must be submitted in English, and therefore, the required documents are also only available in English. Being an intern with the European Ombudsman is not only a great experience but provides excellent reference for one’s career later both in Hungary and abroad.
Translated by Judit Molnár