The European Ombudsman: Reflections on the role and its potential

In-Depth Analysis 20-11-2018

The European Ombudsman is a body established to ensure that maladministration in the EU institutions is addressed and where possible remedied. From the establishment of the European Ombudsman, personalities and the open-ended character of the notion of maladministration have been relevant in shaping the activity of the office. Maladministration is widely accepted to be a sphere of inappropriate behaviour of the administration that goes beyond simple illegality. The particularity of the Ombudsman lies therefore on the fact that it is able, through the exercise of 'soft power', to tackle issues that would escape the scrutiny of the Court of Justice of the EU. This paper provides an overview of the activity of the Ombudsman, and attempts to identify the main areas of activity in quantitative terms, the main institutions to which the Ombudsman addresses inquiries and recommendations and highlights the proactive role exercised by this body so far. The compliance rate with the recommendations of the Ombudsman is rather high, although it would seem to decrease where the Ombudsman, by issuing critical remarks, exercises an 'educational' function. This paper also sets out some proposals to modify the Statute, with some less-extensive proposals, that would take into account already established practices, and other more far-reaching proposals, that would need however to be carefully considered so as not to distort the nature of the body.