Did EU know? EU Ombudsman

18 December 2019

The EU Ombudsman is very important to EDF and to the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the European Union. The treaty on the Functioning of the EU- article 228, describes the institution of the EU Ombudsman and you can find every detail of the Ombudsman’s work on the website- which has been made accessible in recent years.

The website describes in detail what the Ombudsman can do, and how a person can make a complaint:

‘The European Ombudsman investigates complaints from individuals, businesses and organisations about maladministration by the institutions, bodies and agencies of the European Union. Maladministration occurs if an institution or body fails to act in accordance with the law or the principles of good administration, or violates human rights.

Maladministration can include administrative irregularities, unfairness, discrimination or the abuse of power, for example in the managing of EU funds, procurement or recruitment policies. It also includes the failure to reply, or the refusal or unnecessary delay in granting access to information in the public interest. Complainants do not have to have been affected by the issue(s) complained about.’

The current Ombudsman is Emily O Reilly, she was re-elected in December this year. Throuhgout her previous term she did a lot of work to promote, and especially to monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Indeed, the European Ombudsman plays an essential role in monitoring the implementation of the CRPD at the EU level, both as a member of the EU Independent CRPD Monitoring Framework, but also in their role to investigate complaints, and launch own-initiative inquiries into important issues related to the accessibility and inclusiveness of the EU institutions. During her previous term the Ombudsman has:

  • Looked into how the European Commission ensures that its websites and the online tools are accessible for persons with disabilities. The Ombudsman opened an inquiry and asked the Commission about its use of accessible formats (like ‘easy-to-read’), how it enables users to provide feedback on accessibility, and what training it provides for staff members on accessibility issues. The Ombudsman closed her inquiry in January 2019 with six suggestions for improvement.
  • Looked into how the European Commission ensures that the fundamental rights enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights are complied with when EU cohesion policy and its structural funds are implemented by Member States. The Ombudsman defined guidelines for the Commission on how to improve.
  • Decided that the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) failed to make the fraud notification form on its website accessible for persons with a visual impairment.
  • inquired into two complaints from visually impaired candidates who participated in selection procedures for recruiting EU civil servants, which were organised by the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO). The Ombudsman welcomed that EPSO, in response to her recommendations, updated the information provided to candidates on measures for accommodating their special needs. She also welcomed EPSO’s proposal to enable visually impaired candidates to sit computer-based tests off-site, using remote access technologies. However, the Ombudsman was not fully satisfied with the timeline proposed by EPSO for making its online application form fully accessible and noted this again to EPSO in her decision closing the inquiry.
  • Chaired the EU Independent CRPD Monitoring Framework and taken part in all activities of the EU framework.

Cooperation with EDF

EDF is part of the EU Independent CRPD Monitoring Framework, together with the Ombudsman’s office- therefore we meet regularly. In addition, the Ombudsman’s office reaches out to EDF to discuss specific complaints and enquiries. The Ombudsman herself took part in the 4th European Parliament of persons with disabilities.

EDF has reached out to MEPs in the petitions committee to encourage them to ask questions on disability to the candidates. Do you want to listen to the hearings of the next EU Ombudsman?

You can watch the Petitions Committee live on December 3rd.

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