EU citizens, businesses and associations can file a complaint with the European Ombudsman if they encounter difficulty in exercising their rights. However, universities, students and staff generally do not take advantage of this service. EUA Secretary General Lesley Wilson recently met with European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly and her team to discuss how to promote the Ombudsman’s office in the European higher education community.
During the meeting, they also addressed a number of concrete issues and challenges that universities face concerning the EU budgets for research and education, and the application of the rules for funding programmes such as Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020. Another point of discussion was the opportunities for the European higher education sector to contribute to European policy making through official consultations and direct exchanges with the EU institutions. This topic is important as the university sector, like other civil society institutions, generally does not possess the lobbying power that industries have.
The European Ombudsman was established with the Maastricht Treaty in 1995. The Ombudsman is elected by the European Parliament and investigates complaints about administrative irregularities, unfairness, discrimination, abuse of power, failure to reply, refusal of information, and unnecessary delay in EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies.
The Ombudsman’s interventions have no binding power, but work through persuasion and mediation. Complaints can be submitted in any of the EU’s official languages via a form on the Ombudsman’s website, which also provides guidelines and other information.
EUA has worked with the Ombudsman over the years. In 2014, it responded to the Ombudsman’s consultation concerning the composition of European Commission expert groups. It also supported the Ombudsman’s 2011 statement of public service principles for EU civil servants.
To contact the Ombudsman, please click here.