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Decision on the European Commission’s refusal to grant access to preparatory documents relating to anti-dumping measures on imports of steel fasteners from China (case 1379/2020/MAS)

Mandag | 06 september 2021

The case concerned the refusal of the European Commission to grant public access to preparatory documents relating to anti-dumping measures on imports of steel fasteners from China. The Commission did not identify for the complainant the documents falling within the scope of his request and refused access without individually and specifically examining them. Instead, it invoked a general presumption of confidentiality based on the protection of commercial interests and the purpose of investigations.

The Ombudsman had doubts that a general presumption of confidentiality was applicable in this case, notably given that the documents in question are now more than nine years old. She made a proposal for a solution, asking the Commission to provide the complainant with a list of the documents covered by his request and to examine specifically and individually each of the documents with a view to considering their disclosure.

While the Commission produced a list of the documents in question, it refused to examine specifically and individually the documents covered by the request.

It is settled case-law that the Commission is not obliged to apply a general presumption - it is an option. The Commission could have made use of that option and thereby followed the Ombudsman’s proposal for solution, to deliver greater transparency in this case. As the Commission’s reply to the Ombudsman’s proposal does not indicate any flexibility on this matter, the Ombudsman considers it appropriate to close her inquiry at this stage setting out her findings.

She maintains her doubts that a general presumption of confidentiality was applicable in this case. She hopes the Court will clarify this issue when given the opportunity.

Decision in case 1026/2020/MAS concerning the failure by the European Commission to finalise an updated 'sustainability impact assessment' before concluding the EU-Mercosur trade negotiations

Onsdag | 17 marts 2021

The case concerned the European Commission’s failure to finalise a ‘sustainability impact assessment’ (SIA) before concluding the negotiations on a trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur, a South American trade bloc.

The complainants contended that, by not finalising the assessment, the Commission disregarded its own guidelines on SIAs and breached EU law. The Commission acknowledged that, in general, it would be preferable for SIAs to be finalised before the conclusion of trade negotiations, but argued that there is no legal requirement to do so.

The Ombudsman took the view that, while it was impossible to foresee the dynamics of the negotiations, the SIA in this case has taken much longer to finalise than anticipated. Specifically, the Commission should have ensured that the SIA was finalised before the conclusion of the EU-Mercosur trade negotiations.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission’s failure to ensure that the SIA was finalised in good time constituted maladministration. Considering that the negotiations have been concluded and that the Commission appears set to finalise the SIA process imminently, she takes the view that it would serve no purpose to make a recommendation. However, she urges the Commission to ensure that, in the future, SIAs are completed prior to the conclusion of trade negotiations.

 

Afgørelse i sag 1991/2019/KR om Europa-Kommissionens foranstaltning vedrørende bæredygtighedsvurdering for gasprojekter på den gældende liste over projekter af fælles interesse

Tirsdag | 17 november 2020

Sagen omhandlede medtagelsen af gasprojekter på EU's liste over projekter af fælles interesse fra 2019. De er grænseoverskridende energiinfrastrukturprojekter, som skal hjælpe med at opnå EU's energi- og klimapolitiske målsætninger. Klageren var bekymret for, at bæredygtigheden af gasprojekter på listen over projekter af fælles interesse ikke var blevet evalueret på tilfredsstillende vis, som det kræves.

Kommissionen havde allerede anerkendt, at bæredygtighedsvurderingen af gaskandidatprojekter ikke har været optimal som følge af datamangel og utilstrækkelige metoder. I forbindelse med undersøgelsen oplyste Kommissionen Ombudsmanden om, at den ajourfører kriteriet, som benyttes til vurdering af egnetheden af projekter, som er kandidater til medtagelse på den næste liste over projekter af fælles interesse, hvilket den udarbejder i 2021.

Denne ajourføring forventes blandt andet at tage hensyn til CO2- og methanbalancen samt effektivitetsvirkninger under vurderingen af projekter. Indikatoren forventes at afspejle infrastrukturens forventede virkning på den samlede drivhusgasintensitet for energiproduktionen i en bestemt EU-medlemsstat og emissionerne knyttet til funktionen af selve infrastrukturen.

Ombudsmanden glæder sig over, at Kommissionen vil garantere, at denne ajourføring finder sted, inden afgørelsen om den næste liste over projekter af fælles interesse træffes. Vedtagelsesdatoen for den næste liste over projekter af fælles interesse forventes at være i det sidste kvartal af 2021.

På baggrund af EU's målsætning om klimaændringer og bæredygtighed er det beklageligt, at gasprojekter var inkluderet på tidligere lister over projekter af fælles interesse, uden at deres bæredygtighed var korrekt evalueret. Dette betød, at det ikke var muligt at rangordne dem for at udpege de mest bæredygtige. Kommissionen træffer dog den nødvendige foranstaltning med det resultat, at der på dette tidspunkt ikke kan begrundes yderligere af Ombudsmandens undersøgelser.