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Decision on how the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) dealt with a request for public access to documents related to a proposal to restrict lead in ammunition (case 2124/2021/MIG)

Mandag | 14 november 2022

The case concerned a request for public access to documents held by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concerning lead in ammunition. EFSA took more than seven months to deal with the request, extending the deadline on various occasions, which prevented the complainant from using the documents in preparing a contribution to a public consultation organised by another EU agency.

The Ombudsman opened an inquiry and found maladministration in how EFSA had dealt with the complainant’s access request and, specifically, its failure to comply with the time limits set out in the EU legislation on public access to documents. She recommended that EFSA should cease its practice of extending the prescribed time limits beyond 30 working days when proposing a ‘fair solution’. She also recommended that EFSA should provide applicants at an early stage with a list of the documents it identifies where an access request is formulated in broad terms. 

EFSA replied positively to the Ombudsman’s recommendations, committing itself to changing its rules and practices to ensure that requests for public access to documents are processed swiftly. The Ombudsman closed the inquiry, welcoming EFSA’s positive response and the steps it has already taken and intends to take to implement her recommendations.

Decision on the European Maritime Safety Agency’s (EMSA) refusal to provide full public access to statistics concerning maritime pollution (case 129/2022/OAM)

Torsdag | 06 oktober 2022

The case concerned a public access to documents request concerning certain information obtained though the CleanSeaNet service, a tool operated by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to monitor maritime pollution. The complainant, an investigative journalism platform, was interested in the results of verifications of possible oil spills on the sea surface, in particular the data for the year 2019. EMSA argued that the originators of the data, the national authorities of the coastal states, opposed its release. 

The Ombudsman found that under the EU legislation on public access to documents such an objection could not in itself justify refusing access. The Ombudsman noted that EMSA has published similar data in the past and also pointed out that the requested data constituted environmental information which should benefit from greater transparency.

The Ombudsman therefore proposed that EMSA reassess the request with a view to granting public access. EMSA accepted the solution proposal and has now published on its website extensive information on CleanSeaNet detections of possible oil spills and verification results for the whole period between 2015 and 2021.The Ombudsman welcomes EMSA’s positive response to her solution proposal and closed the case.