|Inaugural holder||Jacob Söderman|
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The European Ombudsman was established by the Maastricht Treaty and the first, Jacob Söderman of Finland, was elected by Parliament in 1995. The current Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly of Ireland, took office on 1 October 2013.
The European Ombudsman is elected by the European Parliament. The Ombudsman is elected for the term of 5 years and the term is renewable. At the request of Parliament, the Ombudsman may be removed by the Court of Justice if "(s)he no longer fulfils the conditions required for the performance of his duties or if (s)he is guilty of serious misconduct". (Article 228 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU)
Any EU citizen or entity may appeal the Ombudsman to investigate an EU institution on the grounds of maladministration: administrative irregularities, unfairness, discrimination, abuse of power, failure to reply, refusal of information or unnecessary delay. The Ombudsman can not investigate the European Court of Justice in its judicial capacity, the General Court, the Civil Service Tribunal, national and regional administrations (even where EU law is concerned), judiciaries, private individuals or corporations.
The Ombudsman has no binding powers to compel compliance with their rulings, but the overall level of compliance is high. The Ombudsman primarily relies on the power of persuasion and publicity. In 2011, the overall rate of compliance by the EU institutions with their suggestions was 82%. The EU Agencies had a compliance rate of 100%. The compliance rate of the European Commission was the same as the overall figure of 82%, while the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) scored 69%.
It is a right of an EU citizen, according to the EU treaties, to take a case to the Ombudsman. One example of a case dealt with by the Ombudsman involved a late payment from the commission to a German science journalist. The Commission explained the delay, paid interest and accelerated future payments to experts. On another occasion, following a complaint from a Hungarian, EPSO agreed to clarify information in recruitment competition notices concerning eligibility and pre-selection tests. A third case was resolved when the Ombudsman compelled the council to release to the public documents it had previously not acknowledged the existence of.
The ombudsman received 2,667 complaints in the year 2010 and opened 335 investigations into alleged maladministration. In 2011 2,510 complaints were received and 396 investigations were opened. The largest number of complaints in 2011 came from Spain (361), followed by Germany with 308. Relative to population, however, the greatest proportion of complaints came from Luxembourg and Cyprus. The United Kingdom, despite its eurosceptic reputation, was in 2009 responsible for the smallest number of cases lodged. In 2011 the UK was responsible for 141 complaints to the Ombudsman, still representing a relatively low ratio of complaints to population.
According to the Ombudsman's own reports, 58% of complaints in 2011 were related to the European Commission. 11% related to the European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) from dissatisfied applicants to the European Civil Service and 4% to the European Parliament. The Council of the European Union accounted for 3%.