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The European ombudsman at your service - 16/03/2009

Nikiforos Diamandouros, European ombudsman © EC

New website will make sure your complaint reaches the right authority more quickly.

If you think the EU institutions have made a mistake or failed to follow their own rules, you can ask the European ombudsman to investigate on your behalf.

The ombudsman – effectively a complaints officer – can look into allegations concerning unfairness, discrimination, abuse of power, withholding of information, unnecessary delays or failure to follow correct procedure.

Usually the ombudsman is able to find a solution acceptable to both parties. But if the EU institution at fault does not accept his recommendations, he can report the matter to the European parliament, which can then take political action if necessary.

Only one quarter of the 3 000 complaints received every year actually fall under the ombudsman's authority. The others must be handled by national or regional bodies. A new interactive website will guide complainants to the correct authority, saving time and money and sparing them the disappointment of having their complaint rejected.

The ombudsman has helped to sort out several contentious issues. For example, he intervened in a recent case concerning a rejected application for an internship at the commission. A Portuguese national complained that her application had been unfairly rejected, as her previous work experience lasted for less than the six weeks as stipulated in the rules for applicants. Following a request by the ombudsman, the commission clarified that work experience of less than one month did not need to be declared and therefore accepted the application.

The ombudsman is elected by the European parliament for a renewable term of five years – the position is currently held by Nikiforos Diamandouros. He is a part of European network of ombudsmen, covering 31 European countries.

More information on the European ombudsman

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