This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 320294


The European Ombudsman: democratic empowerment or democratic deficit? (Deliverable 8.9)

July 20, 2017

Authors: Tom Binder, Marco Inglese and Frans van Waarden

This deliverable analyses the impact of the European Ombudsman in the European Union’s democratic life through his power to investigate cases of maladministration committed by European institutions. Accordingly, this deliverable is structured as follows.

The first part is devoted to explore the creation of the European Ombudsman, the rationale behind his establishment, and the development of this ‘personalised’ body. The report then moves to an assessment of the European Ombudsman’s investigative powers, coupled with a specific focus on the relations with his national peers. This section then proceeds by highlighting quantitative data on the complaints lodged to the European Ombudsman since his creation.

The second part verifies whether the European Ombudsman constitutes a case of democratic empowerment. Indeed, an assessment of the European Ombudsman’s body of decisions shows that he is more and more acting not only as a ‘watchdog’ of European institutions but even of European agencies.

The third part provides a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the personal, geographical origin and subject matter of complaints complemented by the targets of inquiries. In particular, citizens of some States are more active than other in submitting a complaint, the Commission is still the most targeted institution, while the major allegation of maladministration pertains to access to documents and lack of transparency.

The fourth part investigates possible barriers that European citizens might encounter in lodging a complaint to the European Ombudsman. In this respect, considering the lack of locus standi before the European Ombudsman and the fact that the proceedings is free of charge and can be conducted in the language chosen by the applicant, we argue that there are no barriers to be overcome.

The fifth part, through an assessment of the few cases decided by the European Court of Justice and considering the specific relationship the European Ombudsman has with the Parliament, seeks to position him with the so-called trias politica.

In conclusion, this deliverable argues that the European Ombudsman has had and will have a positive impact on the democratic life of the European Union, has been successful in fostering the accountability of European institutions and will have a key role in monitoring future developments affecting European citizens.


Download the report here