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Decision in case 119/2017/AMF on the European Commission’s closure of an infringement complaint against Spain

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  • Case: 119/2017/AMF
    Opened on 14 Mar 2017 - Decision on 14 Mar 2017
  • Institution(s) concerned: European Commission

The case concerned the closure of an infringement complaint against Spain about the functioning of the Spanish judiciary system. The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found no maladministration by the European Commission in concluding that the matter falls outside the scope of EU law.

The background to the complaint

1.  The complainant, a Spanish citizen, submitted a complaint to the European Commission because he considered that his Fundamental Rights were not respected in the procedures before the Spanish courts leading to a judgement suspending the complainant’s right to visit his son.

2. The Commission informed the complainant that his complaint is outside its competences. The Commission is only competent to intervene in cases that involve a potential breach of EU law by Member State authorities. The Commission also informed the complainant that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights[1] applies to Member States only when they are implementing EU law. The Commission therefore informed the complainant of its intention to close the complaint and invited him to submit his comments.

3. The Commission also informed the complainant about the possibility to turn to the Spanish Constitutional Court and indicated to him how to ask for free legal assistance in Spain.

4. The complainant submitted his comments to the Commission, which did not find any new element therein that would lead it to reconsider its position. The Commission therefore closed the case.

5. Unsatisfied with the Commission´s decision, the complainant turned to the Ombudsman.

The inquiry

6. The Ombudsman opened an inquiry into the complainant’s concern that the European Commission was wrong in deciding to close the complainant´s infringement complaint and that it failed to motivate its decision. The complainant wished the European Commission to reopen the case and to initiate an action against Spain before the European Court of Justice.

7. In the course of the inquiry, the Ombudsman’s inquiry team duly considered the information provided in the complaint. In particular, the inquiry team carried out a thorough analysis of the correspondence that had taken place between the Commission and the complainant before the complainant turned to the Ombudsman.

The closure of the infringement complaint

Arguments made by the complainant

8. The complainant maintains that the Commission was wrong in its assessment of his infringement complaint and that it did not motivate its decision to close the case.

The Ombudsman's assessment

9. The effective application, implementation and enforcement of EU law is a responsibility given to the European Commission by the Treaty on European Union[2]. However, the complainant turned to the Commission about the functioning of the Spanish national judiciary system, which is an issue that is not governed by EU law. The functioning of the Spanish national judiciary system cannot, therefore, be subject to infringement proceedings by the European Commission, even if there were to be concerns about fundamental rights. As the Commission correctly explained to the complainant, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights applies to Member States only when they are implementing EU law. There is thus nothing to suggest that the Commission was wrong to close the case.

10. The Commission also informed the complainant about the reasons for closing the case.

Conclusion

On the basis of the inquiry into this complaint, it is closed with the following conclusion:

There has been no maladministration by the European Commission.

The complainant and the European Commission will be informed of this decision.

Strasbourg, 14/03/2017,

Tina Nilsson
Head of Inquiries - Unit 4

 

 

[1] Article 51.1, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:12012P/TXT

[2] Article 17(1)