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Recommendation on the European Commission's refusal of public access to text messages exchanged between the Commission President and the CEO of a pharmaceutical company on the purchase of a COVID 19 vaccine (case 1316/2021/MIG)

Středa | 26 ledna 2022

The complainant sought public access from the European Commission to text messages and other documents concerning discussions between the Commission President and the CEO of a pharmaceutical company on the purchase of COVID‑19 vaccines. The Commission said it could not provide access to any text messages, as no record had been kept of any such messages.

In the context of the Ombudsman’s inquiry, it emerged that the Commission does not consider that text messages generally fall under its internal criteria for document recording, due to the allegedly ‘short-lived’ nature of their content. In dealing with the request, it had asked the Commission President’s personal office (cabinet) to identify only documents that fulfil its recording criteria. As such, the Commission President’s personal office did not attempt to identify any text messages, and the Commission therefore did not assess whether such text messages should be disclosed.

The Ombudsman considers that this constituted maladministration. To address this, she made a recommendation that the Commission ask the Commission President’s personal office to search again for relevant text messages, making it clear that the search should not be limited to registered documents or documents that fulfil its recording criteria. If any text messages are subsequently identified, the Commission should assess in line with Regulation 1049/2001 whether the complainant can be granted public access to them.

Decision on how the European Commission handled a request for public access to documents concerning EU-funded projects in Morocco (case 1420/2021/DL)

Pátek | 07 ledna 2022

The complainant sought public access to the full list of projects funded by the EU that fall within the framework of the National Sanitation Program in Morocco (‘the program’).

The European Commission provided some information and documents concerning the EU’s financial contribution to the program. However, the Commission said that it did not hold the list requested by the complainant.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and confirmed that the Commission did not hold the list of projects. Since the right of public access to documents applies only to documents in the possession of the institution, the Ombudsman closed the inquiry finding no maladministration by the Commission.