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Decision in case 1064/2015/JAP on the European Commission’s rejection and recovery of costs claimed under an FP6 grant agreement

Čtvrtek | 22 června 2017

The case concerned the Commission’s rejection and proposed recovery of certain costs related to subcontracted activities in the context of an FP6 grant agreement. Arising from the Ombudsman’s inquiry the Commission decided not to proceed with the recovery of costs totalling almost 87.000 EUR. The Commission explained that it had decided to change its original decision on the basis that the complainant had acted in good faith and in accordance with advice which the Commission had itself given.

The Ombudsman welcomed this new decision; nevertheless, she found it to have been unfortunate that for several years the complainant had the prospect of a major recovery of funds hanging over it.

Decision in case OI/1/2016 on the failure by the European Commission to reply to a request for a legal review of a decision by an EU agency

Čtvrtek | 22 prosince 2016

The case concerned the failure by the European Commission to reply to the complainant’s request for a legal review of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency’s decision to reject his project from EU funding under the Erasmus+ programme. The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that the Commission had already replied to the complainant. She therefore considered this part of the complaint as settled by the institution. She also examined the substance of the Commission’s reply and found it comprehensive and reasonable. She therefore decided that there was no maladministration.

Decision in case 1093/2016/JAP concerning the European Commission’s failure to reply to correspondence about problems with the submission of a grant proposal

Čtvrtek | 01 prosince 2016

The case concerned the Commission’s failure to reply to the complainant’s messages concerning its difficulties with the submission of a grant proposal. Due to technical problems, the complainant was not able to apply through the Commission’s system PRIAMOS. Instead, it submitted its proposal by e-mail, which remained unanswered.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and asked the Commission to reply. In its reply, the Commission apologised for not having replied earlier. It said that it could not accept the complainant’s e-mail application because the system had functioned properly and the Commission had not been able to identify any attempts by the complainant to send the proposal via PRIAMOS before the deadline.

Decision in case 1354/2014/ANA concerning the handling by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) Joint Undertaking of an alleged conflict of interest in a tender procedure

Pondělí | 04 července 2016

The case concerned IMI's handling of an alleged conflict of interest in the tender procedure for a research project on risks and benefits of a vaccination scheme in Europe.

The complainant, a member of a consortium that took part in the procedure, argued that IMI failed to address whether all the members of an evaluation committee were impartial. The complainant argued that two members had links to the winning consortium, which gave rise to a conflict of interests.

The Ombudsman found that IMI applied the relevant rules correctly and found no evidence of unjust treatment of the proposal from the complainant's consortium. Therefore, the Ombudsman found that there was no maladministration concerning this aspect of the complaint. The Ombudsman further considered whether experts in a conflict of interest situation with one proposal should be allowed evaluate a competing proposal. The Ombudsman found that, as the rules followed by IMI were drawn up by the European Commission, no further inquiries into this question are justified within the context of this specific complaint.

Decision on own-initiative inquiry OI/3/2014/FOR concerning the partial refusal of the European Medicines Agency to give public access to studies related to the approval of a medicinal product

Středa | 08 června 2016

This inquiry is concerned with how the European Medicines Agency (EMA) should deal with requests for public access to documents containing information on the safety and efficacy of medicines. The specific focus is on the right of public access to three clinical study reports on Humira, a widely sold anti-inflammatory drug.

In 2013 EMA decided to grant public access to these reports. However, the pharmaceutical company that sells the drug (AbbVie) took court proceedings against EMA which had the effect of blocking the proposed release of the reports. In 2014, before the conclusion of the court proceedings, EMA and AbbVie made an out-of-court agreement by which EMA would grant public access to redacted versions of the reports. The Ombudsman contacted EMA to check whether the redactions were justified. Following this check, the Ombudsman was not convinced that all of the redactions were in fact justified. The Ombudsman then began an inquiry, on her own initiative and in the public interest, into EMA's approach to the granting of public access.

In the course of the inquiry it emerged that EMA, in response to other public access requests for the same reports, had released much fuller versions of them. Nevertheless, certain redactions remained.

The Ombudsman accepted that some of these redactions were justified (because of the need to protect personal data). But she was not convinced that other redactions, made to protect commercial interests, were justified. In these latter instances, the Ombudsman took the view that there was likely to be an overriding public interest in disclosure. As a general observation the Ombudsman noted that, where the information in a document has implications for the health of individuals (such as information on the efficacy of a medicine), the public interest in disclosure will generally defeat any claim of commercial sensitivity. Public health should always trump commercial interests.

In closing the inquiry, the Ombudsman recognised that EMA has now made very significant progress with its proactive transparency policy, effective since January 2015. However, in relation to some specific portions of the reports, the Ombudsman questioned EMA's continued reliance on the protection of commercial interests. With a view to promoting systemic improvements, the Ombudsman made several suggestions to EMA as to its future practice in this area.

Decision of the European Ombudsman in case 697/2014/MG concerning the alleged duty of the European Commission to recover funds from an EU project partner

Středa | 17 února 2016

The case concerned the Commission's decision not to accept certain costs declared by a partner to a project funded by the EU. The Commission's decision meant that its final payment to the consortium was reduced by the sum that this partner had received by way of pre-financing. The coordinator argued that it was the Commission's duty to recover the funds incorrectly paid to the partner in question.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission had handled the issue correctly as it could have initiated a recovery only had there been a debt towards the Union. The distribution of financing among project partners is a question of a different nature, in which the Commission has no obligation to intervene. The Ombudsman therefore found no maladministration by the Commission.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 1019/2014/PHP concerning the European Commission's duty to ensure that the selection procedure for a fellowship programme complied with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Úterý | 03 listopadu 2015

The case concerned the complainant's unsuccessful application for a fellowship position under the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure project, funded by the Seventh Framework Programme for Research. The complainant, a deaf researcher, complained to the Commission that the decision not to admit him to the fellowship programme was discriminatory and infringed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found no maladministration by the Commission. She has therefore decided to close the case.

Decision in case 48/2015/ANA on the European Food Safety Authority's alleged infringement of the complainant's procedural rights as regards a scientific opinion

Středa | 23 září 2015

The complainant, Rubinum, a Spanish producer/distributor of animal feed additives, complained to the Ombudsman that EFSA had infringed its procedural rights in the context of the drafting of an EFSA Scientific Opinion which led to the Commission banning Toyocerin, a feed additive used to fatten farm animals.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and asked the complainant to clarify its allegations. On the basis of this inquiry, the Ombudsman found that there was no maladministration on the part of EFSA in this case.

Decision in case 254/2014/PMC concerning the European Commission's role in relation to CAPITA-ERANET, a network of European research authorities

Čtvrtek | 09 července 2015

The complaint concerned the Commission's role in relation to CAPITA, a network of six European countries' research authorities encouraging transnational research cooperation. CAPITA received EU funding to support its coordination of research programmes. The complainant raised concerns that CAPITA's selection of projects to be funded might not have been made in a transparent, fair and impartial manner. The Ombudsman found that the Commission has a duty to act where recipients of EU funding do not fulfil their obligations. However, in this case the Ombudsman considered that the Commission acted appropriately in satisfying itself that the projects had been selected in a transparent, fair and impartial manner and that there had not been any misuse of EU funding on the part of CAPITA. She thus closed the case with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 1078/2013/EIS against the European Commission

Úterý | 07 července 2015

The case concerns the Commission's handling of an infringement complaint regarding the Italian authorities' approach towards recognising foreign qualifications of engineers. The complaint arose from the failure of the Italian authorities to recognise an intermediary qualification leading to a final qualification. The Commission found that the Italian authorities failed to comply with the relevant law in the complainant's case. However, since there was no consistent and general administrative practice contrary to EU law, it decided not to open infringement proceedings against Italy. The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that the Italian authorities' refusal to take the Commission's position concerning the complainant's case into account indicated a systemic issue that would have merited the Commission's intervention, without waiting for future problems of that kind to arise. She thus made a friendly solution proposal suggesting that the Commission resume its investigation of the complainant's infringement complaint. Since, in its reply to the Ombudsman's friendly solution proposal, the Commission (i) explicitly stated that the decision of the national authorities in the complainant's case was wrong, and (ii) committed itself to pursuing the matter should any other similar cases be brought to its attention, the Ombudsman concluded that there was no maladministration and closed the case.

Afgørelse i sag OI/8/2013/OV - Zřízení nezávislého výboru pro nápravná opatření ve Výkonné agentuře pro malé a střední podniky

Středa | 25 března 2015

Výkonná agentura pro malé a střední podniky (dále jen „EASME“) řídí za Evropskou komisi řadu programů EU, včetně části programu Horizont 2020 (rámcového programu pro výzkum a inovace) a programů COSME, LIFE a ENRF.

Veřejná ochránkyně práv zahájila šetření z vlastního podnětu, v rámci kterého agenturu EASME požádala, aby zvážila zavedení postupu, jenž by žadatelům, kteří jsou nespokojeni se způsobem vyřizování výzev k předkládání návrhů, umožnil obrátit se na nezávislý výbor pro nápravná opatření. Předložila dva návrhy doporučení, ve kterých agenturu EASME požádala, aby 1) zavedla postup pro přezkum hodnocení pro žadatele, kteří reagují na výzvy k předkládání návrhů v rámci programu Horizont 2020; a 2) zavedla podobný postup pro přezkum pro žadatele, kteří reagují na výzvy k předkládání návrhů v rámci jiných programů EU. Veřejná ochránkyně práv doporučila, aby se postup pro přezkum vztahoval na případy, kdy žadatelé podají stížnosti na údajné (i) procesní chyby; (ii) věcné chyby nebo (iii) zjevně nesprávné posouzení. Agentura EASME oba návrhy doporučení uznala a přijala včasná a vhodná opatření za účelem jejich provedení. Veřejná ochránkyně práv agenturu EASME za její reakci pochválila. Učinila také dvě další poznámky za účelem zlepšení procesů přezkumu, ve kterých navrhla, aby agentura EASME žadatelům objasnila, že se přezkum údajných „procesních nedostatků“ může rovněž týkat zjevně nesprávného posouzení.

Afgørelse i sag 1962/2013/JN - Spravedlnost požadování vrácení finančního příspěvku

Úterý | 20 ledna 2015

Případ se týkal spravedlnosti požadavku Evropské komise na vrácení části finančního příspěvku, který poskytla stěžovateli, společnosti, v souvislosti s projektem financovaným EU. Komise připustila, že se dopustila několika chyb ve výpočtu částky, která má být vrácena, a omluvila se. Rovněž upustila od požadavku na „náhradu škody“, jelikož by byl nepřiměřený. Za těchto okolností veřejná ochránkyně práv dospěla k závěru, že k žádnému nesprávnému úřednímu postupu dále nedochází, a případ odložila.