Your rights in the EU
The European Union provides many benefits to EU citizens, residents, businesses, and associations. Nationals of EU Member States are also EU citizens, and enjoy a range of rights as a result of European citizenship. You may encounter problems, however, when it comes to exercising your rights. Ever wondered who could help you? It may not always be clear whether the problem is caused by the EU administration, the authorities of a Member State, or a private entity. Even if you do know who is at fault, it may not be obvious where you can turn for help. In a Union based on the fundamental principle of the rule of law, it is of vital importance that there should be a quick and effective remedy for any problems you encounter in obtaining your rights.
European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)
Drawing on its accumulated knowledge and experience, OLAF helps the authorities responsible for managing EU funds – inside and outside the EU – to understand fraud types, trends, threats and risks, and to protect the EU’s financial interests by preventing fraud of all kinds. You can report OLAF if you suspect fraud or other serious irregularities with a potentially negative impact for EU public funds, whether EU revenue, expenditure or assets held by the EU institutions, or serious misconduct by Members or staff of EU Institutions and bodies. You can contact OLAF anonymously. There are no formalities. Just give as precise and detailed information as possible. You can communicate with OLAF in any of the 24 official EU languages. You can report fraud to OLAF via my webpage.
The European Ombudsman
The European Ombudsman is an independent and impartial body that holds the EU administration to account. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration in EU institutions, bodies, offices, and agencies. Only the Court of Justice of the European Union, acting in its judicial capacity, falls outside the Ombudsman’s mandate. The Ombudsman may find maladministration if an institution fails to respect fundamental rights, legal rules or principles, or the principles of good administration. This covers administrative irregularities, unfairness, discrimination, abuse of power, failure to reply, refusal of information, and unnecessary delay, for example. Any citizen or resident of the EU, or business, association, or other body with a registered office in the EU, can lodge a complaint. You need not be individually affected by the maladministration to complain. Please note that the European Ombudsman can only deal with complaints concerning the EU administration and not with complaints about national, regional, or local administrations, even when the complaints concern EU matters.
You should submit your complaint:
- within two years of becoming aware of the facts on which your complaint is based;
- after having first contacted the EU institution concerned to try to resolve the matter;
- in writing, including via the online complaint form available on the European Ombudsman’s website.
The European Network of Ombudsmen
National and regional ombudsmen throughout the EU make a vital contribution to ensuring that citizens and residents enjoy their rights under EU law. The ombudsmen deal with complaints against national, regional, and local public authorities in the Member States. Together with the European Ombudsman and the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions, they form the European Network of Ombudsmen. The network includes the national and regional ombudsmen and similar bodies of the EU Member States, the candidate countries for EU membership, and certain other European countries. The precise grounds on which an ombudsman can act vary within the network, but normally include: violation of rights, including human and fundamental rights; other unlawful behaviour, including failure to respect general principles of law; and failure to act in accordance with principles of good administration. A statement of the European Network of Ombudsmen, which clarifies the service that the members of the network provide to people who complain about matters within the scope of EU law, is available on the European Ombudsman’s website, where you can also find information on how to lodge a complaint with an ombudsman in the network.
The European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions
Through its Committee on Petitions, the European Parliament deals with petitions relating to matters falling within the EU’s field of activity. Petitions cover a very broad range of issues, from environmental concerns to discrimination and delay. Parliament can draw attention, through petitions, to infringements of European citizens’ rights by a Member State, local authority, or other public institution.
The European Data Protection Supervisor
The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) is an independent supervisory authority devoted to protecting personal data and privacy and to promoting good practice in the EU institutions and bodies. It does so by monitoring the EU administration’s processing of personal data, advising on policies and legislation that affect privacy, and cooperating with similar authorities at the EU level, in the Member States, and beyond. The EDPS receives complaints from EU staff members, as well as from other people who feel that their personal data have been mishandled by a European institution or body. If a complaint is admissible, the EDPS usually carries out an inquiry. The findings are communicated to the complainant, and necessary measures are adopted.
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