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Decision of the European Ombudsman on complaint 260/97/JMA against the European Commission

Strasbourg, 15 September 1998

Dear Mr M.,
On 1 April 1997 you lodged a complaint with the European Ombudsman, concerning the alleged failure of the European Commission to ensure the proper application of Directive 91/670/EEC(1) on the mutual acceptance of civil aviation licences by the British authorities. You also complained regarding the failure of the Commission Representation in Madrid to reply to your letters on this matter of 20 February and 25 March 1997.
On 30 April 1997, I forwarded the complaint to the President of the European Commission. On 5 August 1997 the Commission sent its comments which I forwarded to you on 15 September 1997 with an invitation to make observations. I have received no observations from you.
I am writing now to let you know the result of the inquiries that have been made.


The complaint
The complaint to the Ombudsman indicated that the competent British authorities did not recognize pilot licences, such as the one obtained by the complainant in Spain. The refusal was justified on the basis that some additional requirements were required before mutual recognition could be granted. The complainant also claimed that even his practical experience had not been taken into account.
Since the complainant believed that the British authorities were breaching Directive 91/670/EEC, he sent formal complaints to the Commission through its Representation in Madrid in February and March 1997. The complainant alleged that no reply has been given to his complaints.
In the letter to the Ombudsman, the complainant claimed that the Commission was not ensuring the proper application of Directive 91/670/EEC in the UK, and had not given any reply to his letters to the Commission's Representation in Madrid.


The Commission's opinion
The European Commission's comments on the complaint are in summary the following:
As concerns the failure of its Representation in Madrid to give a timely answer to the letter, the Commission apologised for it. The institution explained that a recent change in staff had taken place in its Eurojus section in Madrid. As a result, the dispatching of its correspondence had suffered some delays.
The Commission has given clear instructions to its Representations in all Member States to avoid any similar delay occurring in the future.
As regards the incorrect application of Directive 91/670/EEC in the UK, the Commission pointed out that in order to clarify the situation and put and end to it, its services had contacted the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The complainant had been informed of this initiative, and had been asked by the Commission services to forward them some details on his own licence, such as the country of expedition, rights conferred by the licence, or his experience.
The complainant's observations
I forwarded the Commission's comments to the complainant with an invitation to make observations. I have received no observation from him.


On the basis of the information provided by the complainant and the observations submitted by the European Commission, the Ombudsman has reached the following conclusions:
Failure to answer
1.1 The Commission has acknowledged that there was a failure to deal promptly with the letter sent by the complainant to its Representation in Madrid. However, the institution offered an explanation and apologised for the delay.
1.2 Furthermore, the Commission addressed a letter to all its Representations in the Member States asking them to take all necessary measures to avoid any similar delays occurring in the future.
1.3 Since it appears that a reply to the complainant's letter has been given, and that measures have been taken to avoid a similar situation, there are no grounds for the European Ombudsman to pursue further this aspect of the case.
Due diligence in ensuring compliance with EC law
2.1 In ensuring that Member States fully comply with Community law, the Commission should work in accordance with principles of good administration, and act with due diligence. This implies that the Commission, as the guardian of the Treaty, should actively seek that the concerned Member State put an end to the alleged infringement and duly informs the complainant of its actions.
2.2. Following the letters of the complainant, the Commission services contacted the responsible national authorities in order to ensure proper application of Directive 670/91/EEC by the responsible British authorities. The Commission also requested more information on the complainant's problem, in particular as regards his pilot licence and professional experience.
2.3. From the available information, it appears that the Commission has acted with due diligence in the handling of this complaint. The Ombudsman therefore finds that there is no evidence of maladministration in relation to this aspect of the case.


On the basis of the European Ombudsman's inquiries into this complaint, there appears to have been no maladministration by the European Commission.
The Ombudsman has therefore decided to close the case.
Yours sincerely,
Mr Santer, President of the Commission

(1) Council Directive 91/670/EEC on mutual acceptance of personnel licences for the exercise of function in civil aviation; OJ L 373 of 31.12.1991, p.21.