The purpose of this paper is to explore the communication strategy of the European Ombudsman (EO), focusing on the evolution of the Annual Reports (ARs) of the office from 1995 to 2010. The EO was created to bridge the gap between citizens and the EU Institutions; therefore the EO office may be seen, inter alia, as a vehicle of European communication per se. The ARs are the Ombudsman’s main instrument of political pressure and an opportunity to communicate the outcomes of the preceding year to a broad audience. It is shown that the ARs have improved significantly in terms of layout and structure, while the EO now uses a dynamic logo and website. The various communicative activities presented in the ARs are proof of the EO’s efforts to improve the office’s public image, thereby strengthening the Ombudsman’s so-called ‘moral authority’ in the context of a rather limited mandate. In terms of the legal and political messages of the ARs, the article focuses particularly on the evolution of the notion of maladministration, inter-institutional relations and the creation of a European Network of Ombudsmen. Another section addresses the similarities and differences of the two office-holders of the period under examination regarding their perception of the mandate. The article generally assesses the EO’s efforts in the communication field positively. However, from a communication-policy perspective, it is doubtful that the EO could respond to the possible preference of some citizens to contact him/her on issues which concern a national entity implementing EU law when such matters are excluded from the EO’s jurisdictional ambit.
European Ombudsman; Annual Report; Communication; Transparency; Networks; Good Administration; Charter of Fundamental Rights
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