Democratic Empowerment in the European Union
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Democratic Empowerment in the European Union

Edited by David Levi-Faur and Frans van Waarden

This book looks at democratic empowerment via institutional designs that extend the political rights of European citizens. It focuses on three themes: first, the positive and negative effects of the European Union institutional design on the political rights of its citizens; second, challenges for democratic regimes across the world in the 21st century in the context of regionalism and globalization; third, the constraints of neoliberalism and capitalist markets on the ability of citizens to effectively achieve their political rights within the Union.
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Chapter 5: The European Ombudsman

Marco Inglese and Tom Binder


Chapter 5 by Marco Inglese and Tom Binder discusses the European Ombudsman. One alternative open to individual citizens to question or even challenge government decisions in Europe is provided by the institution of the European Ombudsman. This chapter introduces the institution of the European Ombudsman by means of an extensive description of general features (goals, powers, formation and functioning) and short presentation of historic figures (how often it has been used, for what purposes, with what results). What follows is an assessment of the European Ombudsman’s potential to contribute to the democratic empowerment of European Union (EU) citizens. A thorough evaluation of the institution’s reach, in terms of both plaintiffs (what type of plaintiffs address the Ombudsman, where they come from, etc.) and substance (what type of complaints are forwarded to the Ombudsman, against which institutions/agencies, on what grounds, etc.) forms part of this assessment. Another aspect that will be discussed, in this context, are potential barriers hindering citizens’ access to the ombudsman. Finally, the flip-side of the coin will also be investigated: the European Ombudsman’s negative potential to contribute to the democratic deficit of the EU. In this regard, the Ombudsman’s position within the Trias Politica is explored. In conclusion, it is argued that the European Ombudsman has a positive impact on the democratic empowerment of EU citizens while also being able to influence the legislative agenda of EU institutions, thereby increasing their democratic accountability.

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