The European Ombudsman and the Commission

The Ombudsman opened 370 inquiries in 2020 (compared to 458 inquiries in 2019) of which 210 for the Commission (compared to 274 in 2019). The number of inquiries has significantly dropped, but this is probably partly the consequence of the COVID-19 crisis.

The Commission remains the main addressee of the Ombudsman’s inquiries, although in a lesser measure: 56.8% (compared to 59.7% in 2019), as the institution with the most direct dealings with citizens.

Figure 1. Institutions concerned

Every year, the Commission agrees with around three quarters (i.e. 75% in 2019 of the European Ombudsman’s proposals (proposals for a solution, suggestions for improvement and recommendations).

Agreement Ombudsman
Figure 2. Agreement with the Ombudsman's recommendations

In 2019, on a total of 118 of solution proposals, suggestions for improvement and recommendations, 71 concerned the Commission and the Commission responded in a satisfactory manner to 53.

  • ‘Solution proposals’: On a total of 10, 5 concerned the Commission and the Commission responded in a satisfactory manner to 2.
  • ‘Suggestions for improvement’: On a total of 83, 53 concerned the Commission and the Commission responded in a satisfactory manner to 48.
  • ‘Recommendations’: On a total of 25, 13 concerned the Commission and the Commission responded in a satisfactory manner to 3.

In 2020, 98,5% of the cases end with a finding of no maladministration either because there was no instance of maladministration or because a satisfying outcome was achieved.

No maladministration 2020
Figure 3. Findings of maladministration

Striving for good administration

The Commission strives to ensure good administration. The Ombudsman, after diligent inquiries, in a large majority of cases closes inquiries with no finding of maladministration on the side of the Commission.

In most cases where the Ombudsman does issue recommendations or proposals for a solution or suggestions for improvement, the Commission accommodates these proposals.

However, in some cases, the Commission cannot follow the proposals for reasons related to the public interest or because it disagrees. In these cases, the Commission explains its reasons.

Latest news:

In its latest annual ‘Putting it Right Report’, published in December 2020, the Ombudsman mentioned some ‘star cases’ relating to the Commission with a positive outcome.

  • The inquiry on how the Commission dealt with allegations of human rights violations in a home with disabilities in Hungary co-funded by the EU.
  • The inquiry on the appointment of the former Secretary-General.
  • The inquiry on the Commission’s decision to recover funds from a company that participated in a EU-funded project in Namibia.
  • The own-initiative inquiry on how the Commission manages ‘revolving doors’ situations of its staff members.
  • The strategic initiative on the transparency of the BREXIT-negotiations between the Commission and the UK

The European Ombudsman Award for Good Administration

The Award aims to recognise initiatives, projects and other types of work by different departments of the EU’s institutions, agencies, offices and other bodies that have a visible and direct positive impact on the lives of people in Europe and beyond. This is the 3rd edition of the award and the European Commission was the overall winner with the project to help repatriate over a half million EU citizens stranded around the world due to the pandemic.

More here:

Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union:

Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union:

  • Article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union defines a ‘right to good administration’: ‘Every person has the right to have his or her affairs handled impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time by the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union.’
  • Article 43 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union provides that ‘any citizen of the Union and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State has the right to refer to the European Ombudsman cases of maladministration in the activities of the institutions, bodies, offices or agencies of the Union, with the exception of the Court of Justice of the European Union acting in its judicial role.

Regulation (EC) 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents

European Ombudsman’s reports:

Handling of personal data