National and regional ombudsmen throughout the EU make a vital contribution to ensuring that citizens and residents enjoy their rights under EU law. The ombudsmen deal with complaints against national, regional, and local public authorities in the Member States.
The European Network of Ombudsmen consists of over 99 offices in 35 European countries. The Network includes the national and regional ombudsmen and similar bodies of the Member States of the European Union, the candidate countries for EU membership, and certain other European countries, as well as the European Ombudsman and the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament. The national ombudsmen and similar bodies in the Network have each appointed a liaison officer to act as a point of contact for other members of the Network.
The Network was established in 1996 and has steadily developed into a powerful collaboration tool for ombudsmen and their staff, serving as an effective mechanism for co-operation on case handling. It is of particular importance to the European Ombudsman to enable him to deal promptly and effectively with complaints that fall outside his mandate. Experiences and best practice are shared via seminars and meetings, a regular newsletter, an electronic discussion forum and a daily electronic news service. Visits of the European Ombudsman organised by the ombudsmen in the Member States and accession countries have also proved highly effective in developing the Network.