Defending rights in Ukraine and the European Union: ombudsmen in action
September 15, 2023

Defending rights in Ukraine and the European Union: ombudsmen in action

Author: Yuliia Manuilova

In a world marked by increasing complexity and a growing emphasis on democratic values and the effective protection of human rights, the role of the ombudsman has become essential over the past decades. Ombudsman institutions are independent and impartial bodies that are entrusted with safeguarding the rights and interests of the people they represent. While ombudsmen exist in various forms and functions across the globe, in this blog I delve into a comparative analysis of the roles and functions of two distinct but yet equally vital ombudsman institutions – the European Ombudsman and the Ukrainian Ombudsman.

The legal basis and establishment of Ombudsman offices:

EU: The European Ombudsman was established by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 giving every citizen of the European Union the right to apply to the Ombudsman. There are two Ombudsman offices in both Strasbourg and Brussels. 

As a general rule, the European Ombudsman is elected by the European Parliament and empowered to receive complaints from any citizen of the Union or any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State concerning instances of maladministration in the activities of the Union institutions, bodies, offices or agencies. (Article 228 of Treaty on the Functioning of the EU) 

However, the Ombudsman doesn’t have the authority to investigate the European Court of Justice in its judicial capacity, the General Court, the Civil Service Tribunal, national and regional governments (even if they’re dealing with EU law), the judiciary, private individuals, or businesses. If the Ombudsman finds that there has been maladministration(administrative irregularities, unfairness, discrimination, abuse of power, failure to reply, refusal of information or unnecessary delay), they will appeal to the institution or agency responsible, which has three months to explain their side of the story. After that, the Ombudsman sends a report to the European Parliament and the institution or agency in question. The person who made the complaint will also be informed of the result of the investigation.

The current European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, said: “My ambition is to support the EU institutions in becoming more effective, transparent and accountable by strategically increasing the visibility and impact of the work of the European Ombudsman.” ( 30 June 2014)

Ukraine: In Ukraine, the position of the Ombudsman has existed since 1998 and is called the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights. The Commissioner is appointed to the position and can be dismissed from the position by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine through a secret vote by submitting ballots. The current Ukrainian Ombudsman is Dmytro Lubinets, and his role in the context of the war is exceptionally important. 

Accordingly, the Ombudsman’s responsibilities are aimed at protecting the constitutional rights and freedoms of people violated by public authorities, local governments or their officials. The Commissioner protects the rights of any citizen of Ukraine, foreigner or stateless person legally residing in the territory of the state. Additionally, these responsibilities extend to relations between legal entities of public and private law. 

Interested in the latest news and opportunities?

This website is managed by the EU-funded Regional Communication Programme for the Eastern Neighbourhood ('EU NEIGHBOURS east’), which complements and supports the communication of the Delegations of the European Union in the Eastern partner countries, and works under the guidance of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, and the European External Action Service. EU NEIGHBOURS east is implemented by a GOPA PACE-led consortium. It is part of the larger Neighbourhood Communication Programme (2020-2024) for the EU's Eastern and Southern Neighbourhood, which also includes 'EU NEIGHBOURS south’ project that runs the EU Neighbours portal.

The information on this site is subject to a Disclaimer and Protection of personal data. © European Union,