It happens all too often, citizens are unprotected and injustice before the action or decision of a State of the European Union or its administrative public institutions. What many of these people do not know is that there are several European and international instruments for citizens to be heard and defended before such injustices or illegalities.

There are several instruments that citizens can use and should always respect legal deadlines for exercising their rights.

What are petitions to the European Parliament?

Any national or resident of the European Union, either personally or in association with other citizens, as well as companies, organizations or associations, may petition the European Parliament.

These Petitions can have very varied subjects. In particular, the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital; non-discrimination on grounds of nationality; equal treatment of men and women; tax harmonization; the right to education, training and health; and environmental protection.

If the petition is accepted, the European Parliament will seek to work with the entities of the national Member State to resolve the issue raised in the Petition. The European Parliament can not, however, amend the decisions taken by the competent authorities of the Member States, since the European Parliament is not a judicial body. Therefore, the European Parliament can not deliver judgments or revoke decisions of the national courts of the Member States.

The European Parliament can send the citizen’s petition to other European entities, such as the European Court of Human Rights; or even refer the matter to national authorities (for example, national ombudsmen or committees responsible for considering petitions the parliaments of the Member States).

What are the duties of the European Ombudsman?

Any citizen or resident of a Member State of the European Union, as well as companies, associations or other entities having their seat in the European Union, may submit a complaint to the Ombudsman.

The European Public Prosecutor investigates complaints concerning cases of wrong decisions in the conduct of the institutions or of Community entities, injustice, administrative irregularities, discrimination, abuse of power, lack or refusal of information and undue delay.

The Ombudsman is impartial and does not receive instructions from any government or entity. Surveys may be opened either by the European Ombudsman’s own initiative or following a complaint by a citizen or company.

The citizen must present his complaint within a maximum period of two years from the date of the events.

When possible appeal to the Court of Justice of the European Union?

The Court of Justice of the European Union interprets European law to ensure that it is applied in the same way in all countries of the European Union.

In certain circumstances, citizens, companies or organizations who consider that their rights have been violated by a European institution may also apply to this Court. For example, it may request the annulment of Community decisions affecting it directly, claim compensation in accordance with the general principles common to the laws of the Member States for the reparation of damage caused by an institution or its servants in the performance of their duties ( action for damages or non-contractual liability of the Community).

What is the European Court of Human Rights?

The European Court of Human Rights has its seat in Strasbourg and implements the European Convention on Human Rights. Its mission is to ensure that the rights and guarantees set out in the Convention are respected by States.

Any citizen can file a complaint before the Court when it considered a direct victim of one or more violations of the rights and guarantees provided by the Convention and its Protocols by a public entity or Member State Court.

Here again, it is important to pay attention to the six – month deadline for filing the complaint from the date of the decision of the national authority of the Member State.

Experienced legal support is advisable in clarifying and following up on these matters.