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Decision on how the European Commission handled a complaint against Romania concerning national rules on the right of association of veterinarians - CHAP(2018)02346 (case 1717/2021/OAM)

Dear Mr X,

In September 2021, you submitted a complaint to the European Ombudsman, on behalf of the College of Romanian Veterinarians, about how the European Commission dealt with your infringement complaint CHAP(2018)02346 against Romania.

In your complaint and subsequent letters to the Commission, you argued that the amendments made to the national rules on the organisation and practice of the profession of veterinary practitioner[1] are contrary to the right to freedom of assembly and of association enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union[2] (‘EU Charter’). This is because the new rules do not allow veterinarians holding a public servant position to be part of the College of Romanian Veterinarians. You also argued that, under the new rules, veterinarians are treated differently from similar professionals (such as dentists, general practitioners and architects) and that this situation is in breach of Directive 2000/43/EC[3] on equal treatment irrespective of racial or ethnic origin.

In your complaint to the Ombudsman, you argue that the Commission should have open an infringement procedure to defend the fundamental rights of the Romanian veterinarians. You therefore consider that the Commission was wrong not to take any action in relation to your complaint.

After a careful analysis of all the information provided with the complaint, we find no indication of maladministration by the European Commission.

The Commission enjoys wide discretion in deciding whether and when to commence an infringement procedure.[4]. Its policy on infringements of EU law is set out in its Communication “EU law: Better results through better application[5]. The Ombudsman would question the Commission’s position in this regard only in case of a manifest error of assessment.

In its letter of 16 December 2020, the Commission correctly said that the EU Charter applies to Member States only when they are implementing EU law[6]. The Commission found that the issues you raised did not appear to be related to the implementation of EU law. The Commission therefore did not have the authority to intervene in your case. Regarding your reference to Directive 2000/43/EC, the Commission said that it is applicable only to instances of discrimination based on racial or ethnic origin, which is not the case with the Romanian veterinarians.

Having reviewed the material you sent us, we have not identified anything to suggest a manifest error of assessment by the Commission in this regard.

The Commission correctly set out that it is the responsibility of the Member States to ensure respect of fundamental rights at national level. The Commission also informed you of the possibility to turn to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).[7] We understand from your complaint that you have made use of the means of redress at national level and that there is a case currently pending before the Romanian Constitutional Court regarding compliance of the new rules with the Romanian Constitution.

In light of the above, the Ombudsman has closed the case.[8]

While you may be disappointed with the outcome of the case, we hope that you will find the above explanations helpful.

Yours sincerely,

 

Tina Nilsson
Head of the Case-handling Unit

Strasbourg, 27/10/2021

 

[1] Romanian Law 160/1998 on the organisation and practice of the profession of veterinary practitioner

[2] Article 12 of the EU Charter, accessible at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:12012P/TXT.

[3] Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin, accessible at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/GA/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32000L0043.

[4] Judgment of the Court of 14 February 1989, Starfruit v Commission, case 247/87, available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:61987CJ0247.

[5] https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:52017XC0119(01)&from=EN

[6] Article 51 of the EU Charter. 

[7] More information on the European Convention on Human Rights and the ECtHR is available here: https://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Questions_Answers_ENG.pdf

[8] Full information on the procedure and rights pertaining to complaints can be found at

https://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/document/70707.