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Recommendation on how the European Defence Agency handled the applications of its former Chief Executive to take on senior positions at Airbus (OI/3/2021/KR)

Torsdag | 15 juli 2021

The Ombudsman conducted an inquiry on her own initiative into the decision of the European Defence Authority (EDA) to allow its former Chief Executive to take up two senior positions with Airbus, an aerospace company.

The Ombudsman’s inquiry also looked into how the EDA dealt with the fact that the former Chief Executive took up his new positions before the EDA had authorised him to do so, which is a breach of the EDA’s Staff Regulations.

The Ombudsman found that the conditions imposed on the former Chief Executive by the EDA in its authorising decision were insufficient when measured against the risks, and could not be monitored and enforced. There were also shortcomings in how the EDA assessed the risk of conflicts of interest.

The EDA should have instead applied stronger conditions and forbidden the former Chief Executive from taking up the position which gave rise to the greatest risk of conflict with the EDA’s legitimate interest. Not doing so amounted to maladministration by the EDA.

Based on these findings, the Ombudsman issued two recommendations:

(i) In future, the EDA should forbid its senior staff from taking up positions after their term of office where a clear conflict of interest arises with the legitimate interests of the EDA;

(ii) The EDA should set out the criteria for forbidding such moves, in order to give clarity to senior staff. Applicants for senior EDA posts should be informed of the criteria when they apply.

Recommendation in case 1777/2020/KR on how the European Commission handled concerns about the composition of the High Level Forum on the EU Capital Markets Union and alleged conflicts of interest of some of its members

Tirsdag | 04 maj 2021

The case concerned the High Level Forum on the proposed EU Capital Markets Union, a Commission expert group. The Forum gathered senior industry executives and top international experts and scholars to develop new ideas on related policies for the Commission.

The Forum had two types of members:

Type A - who were appointed in their personal capacity to act independently and in the public interest;

Type B - members who represented a common interest of different stakeholder organisations.

The complainant was concerned that a number of Type A members had links to financial institutions and could, as such, not be considered independent. After the Forum’s recommendations were made public, these members’ declarations of interests were no longer publicly available. In general, the complainant was concerned that the Forum’s composition was insufficiently broad and diverse.

The Ombudsman inquiry found two instances of maladministration:

1. Instead of following its own rules on conflicts of interest for Type A members, the Commission applied general measures to mitigate risks of conflicts of interest. These measures were insufficient.

2. Consequently, the split between the two types of Forum members deviated significantly from the balance that the Commission claimed it struck, and made public.

Based on her inquiry, the Ombudsman recommends that the Commission diligently apply its rules regarding conflicts of interest for individuals applying to be appointed as Type A members of expert groups. Other mitigating measures to address risks of conflicts of interest of Type A members may be taken in addition, but should not substitute the Commission’s rules to this end.

Afgørelse fra Den Europæiske Ombudsmand i den fælles undersøgelse 853/2020/KR om Europa-Kommissionens beslutning om at kontrahere BlackRock Investment Management til at gennemføre en undersøgelse vedrørende integrering af miljømæssige, sociale og ledelsesmæssige målsætninger i EU’s bankregler

Mandag | 23 november 2020

Sagen vedrører Europa-Kommissionens beslutning om at kontrahere BlackRock Investment Management til at gennemføre en undersøgelse vedrørende integrering af miljømæssige, sociale og ledelsesmæssige målsætninger i EU's bankregler. Ombudsmanden indledte en undersøgelse efter modtagelse af klager fra MEP'er og en sammenslutning af samfundsorganisationer. Undersøgelsen vurderede, hvordan Kommissionen evaluerede virksomhedens tilbud i forbindelse med udbudsproceduren for udførelse af integreringsundersøgelsen.

Ombudsmanden konstaterede, at virksomhedens tilbud gav anledning til bekymringer. For det første, hvis en tilbudsgiver har en direkte eller indirekte finansiel interesse i et markeds udviklinger, da det investerer i eller forvalter investeringer i det marked, er der en tydelig risiko for, at disse interesser kan påvirke udfaldet af dennes arbejde til egen fordel. Dette finder anvendelse for den pågældende virksomhed. For det andet medførte faktoren, som Kommissionen benyttede i sin evaluering, at den lave pris, som virksomheden tilbød, gav denne optimale muligheder for at sikre sig kontrakten. Ved tildeling af kontrakten kan give virksomheden mulighed for at få indblik i og påvirke et voksende investeringsområde, som har en stor og stigende relevans for sine kunder og derfor selve virksomheden.

Ombudsmanden er enig i, at der er legitime bekymringer vedrørende risikoen for interessekonflikter, som kan påvirke udførelsen af kontrakten negativt, da virksomheden tydeligvis har en interesse i udviklingen af fremtidig EU-lovgivning, der påvirker denne og dens kunder. Hun konkluderede, at Kommissionen burde have været mere grundig og haft et bredere perspektiv, da den i overensstemmelse med reglerne bekræftede, at virksomheden ikke var underlagt en interessekonflikt, der kan påvirke virksomhedens evne til at udføre kontrakten negativt. Denne mangel overskrider dog ikke grænsen for fejl eller forsømmelser på baggrund af begrænsningerne i EU's regler om tildeling af kontrakter i sådanne situationer, som finder anvendelse på Kommissionens personale, der tildeler kontrakten.

Ombudsmanden foreslår, at Kommissionen ajourfører sine retningslinjer for offentlige udbudsprocedurer for politikrelaterede tjenesteydelseskontrakter, som gør det klart over for personalet, hvornår tilbudsgivere skal udelukkes grundet interessekonflikter, der negativt kan påvirke kontraktens udførelse. Ombudsmanden foreslår også, at Kommissionen overvejer, om det også er nødvendigt med en specifik ajourføring af de gældende regler, så de stemmer mere overens med EU's gældende politiske ambitioner. EU planlægger en periode med rekordhøje udgifter og investeringer, som nødvendigvis omfatter væsentlige forbindelser til den private sektor.

Afgørelsen videresendes også til EU-lovgivere. Det er et anliggende for lovgiverne at blive enige om det retlige grundlag for den "grønne omstilling", herunder hvordan dennes udvikling og indførelse påvirkes på en passende måde.