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Access to letters sent to a member state's government

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  • Case: 2016/2011/AN
    Opened on 11 Nov 2011 - Decision on 19 Jul 2012, 19 Jul 2012
  • Institution(s) concerned: European Central Bank
  • Field(s) of law: Economic and monetary policy and free movement of capital
  • Types of maladministration alleged – (i) breach of, or (ii) breach of duties relating to: Requests for public access to documents [Article 23 ECGAB]
  • Subject matter(s): Dealing with requests for information and access to documents (Transparency)
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Summary of the decision on complaint 2016/2011/AN against the European Central Bank

Shortly before the Spanish Constitution was modified by the amendment limiting public debt, the complainant, a Spanish lawyer, requested access to a letter sent by the European Central Bank ('ECB') to the Spanish Government. The ECB rejected both the initial and the confirmatory application, considering that such disclosure would jeopardise the public interest as regards the economic and monetary policy of the EU or a member state.

The Ombudsman found that, in its opinion, the ECB provided the complainant with an appropriate statement of reasons, including a detailed description of the content of the letter and its purpose. The Ombudsman also inspected the relevant ECB documents and confirmed in his decision that the disclosure of the letter would indeed jeopardise the interest at stake. With the prior consent of the President of the ECB, the Ombudsman confirmed to the complainant that the letter in question did not suggest any amendments to the Spanish Constitution. In light of this information, the complainant considered that his complaint had been settled.

The Ombudsman made a further remark to the ECB that it should continue to view transparency not only as a legal obligation, but also as an opportunity to enhance its legitimacy in the eyes of the citizens.