last updated July 29, 2013



Type of Mechanism
Scope of the Procedure
The complaint may allege a violation by a member State of any measure (law, regulation or administrative action) or practice, which the petitioner feels is incompatible with a provision or a principle of European Union Law.
Who can Submit a Complaint?
Individuals or organizations
Role of Advocates
The European Commission does not require that the complainant demonstrate a formal interest in the proceedings or prove that they are directly impacted by the infringement of European Union law.  Therefore, women's rights NGOs would be able to submit complaints about laws, regulations or administrative actions that were, for example, incompatible with the EU principle of equality between women and men.[1]
Available Remedies
The Commission can institute legal proceedings against member States or businesses that fail to comply with European Union Law.  It can also bring them before the European Court of Justice.
How to Submit a Complaint
The European Commission requires that a complaint be in writing but does not require a specific form. Complaints can be delivered in-person, by letter, or by e-mail.[2]
It is advisable, however, to follow the sample complaint form provided on the European Commission website
The form requires the complainant to provide as much relevant information as possible about the facts giving rise to the complaint, specific provisions of European Union Law that have been violated and references to other Community bodies or national authorities that have been approached about the alleged violation. 
The European Commission advises that the complainant first address national authorities, such as the judiciary or administrative bodies, but does not require exhaustion of domestic remedies.
Where to Send Communications
Commission of the European Communities
(Attn: Secretary-General)
Rue de la Loi 200
B-1049 Brussels
Complaints may also be submitted to the European Commission's Representative Offices in the Member States.
How the Complaint Procedure Works
After a complaint has been registered with the Secretariat-General of the European Commission, it will be reviewed for admissibility.
If found admissible, the complaint is assigned a reference number, which is then communicated to the complainant to use in future correspondence. 
The Commission will then either open infringement proceedings against the member State or close the case, within twelve months of the case being registered.
The Commission notifies the complainant if it either closes the case or about the course of the infringement procedure.
The complainant can request that the European Commission not reveal her identify to member State authorities.  The procedure for submitting a complaint is straightforward and the scope of the allegations are broad. 
The petition can bring public attention to an issue that has not been adequately addressed by the EU or national governments.
The European Commission is not a judicial body and, therefore, cannot issue binding judgments in individual cases.  The Commission can refer cases to the Court of Justice, but even a finding by the Court of an infringement would not provide a remedy to the individual.  A finding by the Court would, however, oblige the member State to comply with European Union Law.


Additional Resources
The European Union website provides an overview of the European Commission, with links to the Secretariat-General and information on lodging a complaint with the Commission.
In addition to the complaint mechanism, European Union citizens can now propose legislation. As of April 1, 2012, the Lisbon Treaty allows organizers of a citizen’s initiative to gather signatures from 1 million citizens of Member States to propose legislation to the European Commission.  The committee organizing the initiative must be composed of at least 7 EU citizens, resident in at least 7 different Member States. The committee has one year to gather at least 1 million signatures. The signatures must be gathered from at least a quarter of EU countries. Once the requirements have been met, the committee may present the initiative to the European Commission at a public hearing, before the Commission decides what action to take on the initiative. For more information on the European citizen’s initiative, see the European Citizens' Initiative section of the European Commission website.[3] 
[1] “Exercising your rights,” European Commission, accessed June 17, 2013,
[2] “Making a Complaint,” European Commission, accessed June 17, 2013,
[3] “European citizens’ initiative,” European Commission, accessed June 17, 2013,'-initiative.html.