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Alleged failure to handle the complainant's request for access to documents properly and in a timely manner

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  • Case: 1108/2012/RT
    Opened on 07 Jun 2012 - Decision on 17 Apr 2013
  • Institution(s) concerned: European Commission
  • Field(s) of law: General, financial and institutional matters
  • 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)
Stack of papers and stopwatch
Copyright: Stocklib © Sergey Jarochkin

Summary of the decision on complaint 1108/2012/RT against the European Commission

The complainant made a request to the Commission under Regulation 1049/2001 for access to a document. This request concerned a document submitted by her former employer and related to her employment in a project funded by the European Commission. In her complaint to the Ombudsman, the complainant alleged that the Commission failed to handle her request properly and in a timely manner, and claimed access to the document in question.

In the course of the Ombudsman's inquiry, the Commission replied to the confirmatory application made by the complainant under Regulation 1049/2001 and, using Regulation 45/2001 as a legal basis, provided her with the requested document. The Commission explained that, because of an administrative error, the document was not attached to the decision which it had taken in the framework of a previous procedure concerning access to her personal data which the complainant had launched under Regulation 45/2001.

The Ombudsman considered that, if the disclosure was indeed based on a previous procedure launched under Regulation 45/2001, which had already been completed, the Commission should have provided the complainant with the requested document immediately after she submitted her initial request under Regulation 1049/2001. However, if the Commission had already re-classified the document as part of the new procedure under Regulation 1049/2001, it should have taken a position on this document with respect to the provisions of this latter Regulation. The Commission failed to do so.

Taking into account that the Commission had provided the complainant with a copy of the requested document, the Ombudsman considered that no further inquiries into the matter were justified. He closed the case with a further remark that, whereas privileged individual access to information containing personal data should be granted under Article 13 of Regulation 45/2001, Regulation 1049/2001 aims to ensure the widest public access possible to the documents held by the EU institutions. Should an applicant submit a request for access under Regulation 1049/2001 to a document which had previously been disclosed to the same applicant pursuant to Article 13 of Regulation 45/2001, the Commission must still carry out an individual and concrete examination of that document under Regulation 1049/2001, in accordance with the relevant case-law of the Court of Justice. However, if the request for access under Article 13 of Regulation 45/2001 leads to the disclosure of the entire document to which access is subsequently requested under Regulation 1049/2001, the Commission could consider explaining that there is no "effet utile" in carrying out the examination mentioned above.