New book: EU cases call for neither painkillers nor champagne

‘Today, the Ombudsman consumes neither painkillers nor champagne when it turns out that a case includes EU law.’

So says Parliamentary Ombudsman Niels Fenger in the chapter ‘The Danish Ombudsman and EU law’ (translated from Danish) in the book ‘Danmark og EU gennem 50 år – en milepæl’ (Denmark and the EU through 50 years – a milestone), published by Djøf Forlag. The book, which was edited by Professors Ulla Neergaard and Karsten Engsig Sørensen, is about Denmark’s relationship with the EU on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Denmark’s entry into what was then known as the Common Market.

In the chapter, Niels Fenger analyses the development of the Ombudsman Office’s approach to EU law through the years. He shows that, for many years, the Ombudsman had a careful and cautious approach to the review of Danish authorities’ application of EU rules. In recent years, however, EU law has taken its place as a natural basis for review in the same way as Danish rules. For instance, this applies to Directive 2003/4 on public access to environmental information, which is the EU legislative act that the Ombudsman most often includes in his assessment basis.

Niels Fenger also states that the number of complaint cases to the Ombudsman concerning EU law has increased in recent years. However, it is still low considering how big a part of the Danish legislation that originates in EU law.

According to Niels Fenger, there may be various reasons for this. For example, he mentions that there are other complaint options within the EU, such as the Commission and the SOLVIT service. He also points out that much EU law relates to business law, where the Ombudsman typically does not receive many complaints. Besides, the low number of complaints is not an especially Danish phenomenon; most of the other European ombudsmen also process relatively few cases about the authorities’ application of EU law.

At any rate, it is a fact that the Danish Parliamentary Ombudsman today processes EU-related cases on equal footing with everyone else.

Or as Niels Fenger himself remarks:

‘EU law has become ‘business as usual’, only not ‘very usual business’.’

 

Further details:

Director of International Relations, Klavs Kinnerup Hede, kkh@ombudsmanden.dk