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Decision of the European Ombudsman on complaint 1313/98/VK against the European Commission

Strasbourg, 27 July 1999

Dear Mr B.,
On 22 June 1998, you made a complaint to the European Ombudsman against the European Commission. You alleged that the Commission had failed to reply to your letters and to provide you with the information you had asked for.
I contacted the Commission services orally and by fax in order to inquire whether the requested replies had been sent to you. Unfortunately, no satisfactory reply could be obtained. I therefore forwarded the complaint to the President of the European Commission on 26 January 1999. The Commission sent its opinion on 21 April 1999. I forwarded it to you with an invitation to make observations, which I received on 7 June 1999.
I am writing now to let you know the results of the inquiries that have been made.


The complainant stated that he sent a letter on 19 January 1998 to DG VII of the Commission in which he asked it to examine whether the financing of the dual rail connection to the airport Köln/Bonn has been carried out in accordance with the provisions on State aid of the Treaty establishing the European Community. As he had not received a reply five months later, he sent a second letter on 19 May 1998. The complainant claimed that he did not receive a reply from the Commission to his two letters.
Against this background, the complainant lodged the complaint with the European Ombudsman. He put forward that the Commission should have replied to his letters by giving him the information he requested.


The Commission's opinion
In its opinion, the Commission stated that since the end of 1997, the complainant had addressed the Commission on several occasions as regards alleged State aid in favour of the airport Köln/Bonn.
The Commission confirmed that on 19 January 1998, the complainant wrote to the Commission stating that the financing of the railway connection to the airport Köln/Bonn was contrary to the state aid provisions of the EC-Treaty. It further stated that by letter of 21 May 1998, the complainant asked the Commission to reply to his letter 19 January 1998. On 29 September 1998, the complainant wrote again concerning the lacking reply to his letter of 19 January 1998 on the alleged state aid.
The Commission stated that by letter of 13 January 1999, the European Ombudsman asked the Commission for its opinion on the complaint On 2 February 1999, the Commission wrote to the complainant apologising that his letters of 19 January and 25 May 1998 concerning the financing of the railway connection to the airport Köln/Bonn had not been answered. In its letter, the Commission stated that the legal situation was as described in its letters of 10 July and 21 August 1998. According to the letter, the construction or extension of infra-structural measures was a general economical and political matter. In view of health risks mentioned by the complainant in earlier letters, the Commission also transmitted a copy of its consultation paper " Air Transport and the Environment" to the complainant.
The Commission pointed out that it has not been inactive as regards the letters of the complainant. The relevant national bodies were addressed and asked for a comment. The Commission stated that the complainant wrote a whole range of letters concerning different aspects of the airport Köln/Bonn and that only those concerning the railway connection to the airport unfortunately remained unanswered. This was partly due to a change of staff in May 1998. The Commission expressed its regret and apologised to the complainant in its letter of 2 February 1999.
The complainant's observations
In his observations, the complainant expressed satisfaction concerning the account given by the Commission.
He requested that one point should be further investigated. This point related to health risks caused by the airport Köln/Bonn. He claimed that his letters concerning this item were not answered by the Commission.


1 Reply to complainant's letters
1.1 The complainant stated that his letters of 15 January and 15 May 1998 to the Commission were not answered. The Commission confirmed that it has received the particular letters among several others from the complainant. It stated that it replied to all other letters which the complainant wrote. The Commission expressed its regret that the mentioned letters were unfortunately not explicitly answered. This was partly due to a change of staff. The Commission sent a letter of reply to the complainant on 2 February 1999 in which it apologised for the delay. It appears therefore that this matter is settled.
2 Further issue raised by the complainant
2.1 In his observations, the complainant stated that he wanted the aspect of possible health risks caused by the airport Köln/Bonn further investigated. In particular, he mentioned that two of his letters concerning this issue were not explicitly answered by the Commission.
2.2 The aspect of possible health risks raised in two of the complainant's letters was not mentioned by the complainant in his original complaint. It appears from the information given to the Ombudsman that the Commission has been aware of the issue and has dealt with it together with other subjects raised. In particular, the Commission sent a copy of its consultation paper on "Air Transport and the Environment". Given that the complainant did not mention his letters on the aspects of possible health risks in his original complaint and furthermore, given that the Commission appears to have addressed it in its letters to the complainant, the Ombudsman considers it not to be justified to investigate the matter further.
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.
The President of the European Commission will also be informed of this decision.
Yours sincerely