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Showing 1 - 20 of 57 results

Decision in case 554/2018/DR on the European Commission’s decision to close the infringement procedure concerning the failure of the Hungarian authorities to organise a public tender for the project Paks II Nuclear Power Plant

Monday | 15 April 2019

The case concerned how the Commission dealt with a complaint that the Hungarian authorities breached EU  public procurement rules by awarding a contract for building two new reactors and refurbishing two other existing reactors at a nuclear power plant without an open tender. It also concerned how the Commission dealt with the complainant’s questions about its reasons to close the infringement procedure against Hungary.

The Ombudsman notes that the issue of whether the Hungarian authorities infringed EU public procurement rules is pending before the General Court. As such, and in line with the rules governing her work, the Ombudsman cannot examine the substance of this matter further.

Regarding the reply to the complainant’s questions, the Ombudsman identified a number of shortcomings, including a delay for which the Commission apologised. The Ombudsman found that, while the Commission is of the view that it replied, these replies could have been drafted in a more helpful and direct manner. The Ombudsman therefore suggests that the Commission provide the complainant with a more detailed reply and, on this basis, closes the case.

Recommendation of the European Ombudsman in case 805/2018/THH on the European Investment Bank’s refusal to grant public access to documents regarding a loan to Volkswagen

Friday | 29 March 2019

The case concerned a loan of EUR 400 million of public money granted by the European Investment Bank (EIB) to Volkswagen, one of Europe’s largest companies, and which was subsequently used fraudulently by that company.

The loan was granted to co-finance a research and development project aimed at reducing polluting car emissions. In 2015, following worldwide news coverage of the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal, concerns were raised that Volkswagen had used the loan to develop a “defeat device” which would produce misleading results on emissions tests. The European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) opened an investigation into the loan in November 2015. This investigation was finalised in the summer of 2017, when OLAF sent its final report and recommendation to the EIB. The report found that Volkswagen had misled the EIB in the acquisition of the loan.

The complainant, an investigative journalist, requested from the EIB, under EIB transparency rules, public access to the report and recommendation, along with related internal documents of the EIB. The Bank refused public access. Dissatisfied, the complainant turned to the European Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman found that there was a very strong public interest in disclosure of the relevant documents and that this overrode the EIB’s concerns. She therefore proposed to the EIB in December 2018 that it should grant public access to the report and recommendation, with appropriate redactions only for personal data. In February 2019, the EIB published a summary of the report and recommendation.

The Ombudsman considers that release of the summary by the EIB is insufficient, particularly as the report contains several facts which are in the public interest to be disclosed.

She therefore recommends that the EIB should grant public access to the report and recommendation, as well as the internal notes drawn up by the Bank, with redactions only for personal data and any other information which could lead to individuals being identified.

Decision in case 1861/2017/JN on the European Commission’s decision to recover funds in relation to an EU-funded project in the area of renewable energy

Monday | 25 March 2019

The case concerned the European Commission’s decision to recover funds from a company that was part of a consortium involved in an EU-funded project in the area of renewable energy. The company argued that the procedure followed by the Commission was unfair.

The Ombudsman noted that it would be appropriate for the Commission to inform directly the company concerned about its decision to appoint an external expert to review the costs it had claimed. In this case, as the company was given sufficient opportunity to present its views, the Ombudsman found no maladministration.

The Ombudsman closed the inquiry with a suggestion that, in the future, the Commission should improve how it communicates in similar cases.

Decision in case 150/2017/JN on the European Commission's failure to carry out a human rights impact assessment before agreeing to new OECD provisions on export credits for coal-fired electricity generation projects

Thursday | 14 March 2019

The complainant considered that the European Commission had wrongly decided not to carry out a human rights impact assessment before agreeing to new provisions, which were developed within the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), on export credits for coal-fired electricity generation projects.

The Commission considered that no impact assessment was needed because the provisions were not likely to have any significant impact.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission had not carried out any thorough analysis before deciding not to carry out an impact assessment. She found that this constituted maladministration. The Ombudsman recommended that, in the future, in advance of a substantive decision, the Commission should ensure that it systematically assesses whether an envisaged measure, proposal or international agreement is likely to have significant economic, social or environmental impacts, including human rights impacts. The Ombudsman stressed that the Commission should keep a written record of this.

The Commission informed the Ombudsman that it already has in place procedures that address her recommendations.

The Ombudsman notes, however, that the Commission was unable to provide her with a record of the internal analysis carried out in this case before it was decided that no impact assessment was needed.

The Ombudsman therefore calls on the Commission to apply its procedures consistently and to keep a written record of its analysis and assessment. On this basis, the Ombudsman closes the case.

Decision in cases 1227/2017/THH and 1715/2017/THH on the European Commission’s refusal of access to documents concerning its infringement proceedings against Hungary relating to works on the Paks II nuclear power plant

Tuesday | 15 January 2019

The cases concerned the European Commission’s refusal to grant public access to documents concerning its infringement proceedings against Hungary regarding works on the Paks II nuclear power plant.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and proposed that the Commission reassess its refusal. The Commission accepted the proposal and granted the complainants full access to two, and wide partial access to the remaining documents.

However, the complainants did not consider that the case was resolved by the partial disclosure of documents as they argued that the Commission had failed to identify all documents falling within the scope of their access requests. The Ombudsman then asked the Commission to check if there were additional documents and, if so, to assess whether they could be released. The Commission did so. It identified three more documents but refused public access to them.

The Ombudsman finds the Commission’s decision not to disclose the newly identified documents to be reasonable. She therefore considers that the Commission has settled the substance of the case and closes her inquiry. However, she criticises the significant delay which she finds amounts to maladministration.

Decision of the European Ombudsman in case 934/2018/RM on how the European Commission dealt with a request for public access to briefing documents for the Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources

Tuesday | 04 December 2018

The case concerned a request for access to briefing documents prepared for meetings of the Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources and his advisors with third parties. The European Commission had not taken a decision on the request after more than a year. The Ombudsman found that this delay constituted maladministration, and recommended that the Commission take a decision without delay.

The Commission subsequently failed to meet the deadline for responding to the Ombudsman, even after this was extended, but apologised for this when it finally sent its formal opinion. The Ombudsman found the excessive delays in this case to be regrettable. However, she found the solution offered by the Commission, making available documents from 12 meetings of the Commissioner, to be reasonable.  

Decision in case 849/2018/TE on the European Commission’s recovery of allegedly ineligible expenditure amounting to EUR 713 380 following a contract for emission reduction from a Thermal Power Plant in Serbia

Monday | 06 August 2018

The case concerned the European Commission’s decision to recover EUR 713 380 from a contractor who carried out an EU-funded emissions-reduction project in Serbia. The Commission argued that the contractor had used three sub-contractors without first getting the Commission’s prior approval. The complainant argued that the Commission always knew about the use of the sub-contractors. In any event, it argued, the amount of the recovery order was disproportionate.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that the parties to the contract had agreed upon a specific dispute settlement procedure to resolve conflicts relating to the contract and that the parties were engaged in the first step of this procedure. Against that background, the Ombudsman concluded that no further inquiries are justified at this time.