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Showing 1 - 20 of 65 results

Decision in case 2077/2019/FP on the European Commission’s failure to grant access to documents relating to a merger procedure

Monday | 02 December 2019

The case concerned the Commission’s refusal to grant access to documents relating to the notification and pre-notification procedure in a merger case. The Commission refused access to the document, arguing that documents in merger cases are covered by a ‘general presumption’ of non-disclosure, established by the EU courts. The complainant contended that there was an overriding public interest in its disclosure.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission was entitled to refuse access to the document, and thus closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision in case 805/2018/MIG on the European Investment Bank’s refusal to grant public access to documents regarding a loan to Volkswagen

Thursday | 28 November 2019

The case concerned the European Investment Bank’s (EIB) refusal of public access to a report and a recommendation by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) and to related documents. The documents concerned a loan of EUR 400 million of public money, which the EIB had given to the automotive company Volkswagen and which had been used fraudulently by that company.

The Ombudsman found that the EIB’s refusal of public access to the OLAF report and recommendation in their entirety constituted maladministration. She considered that there was an overriding public interest in disclosing appropriately redacted versions of the documents and made a recommendation accordingly. However, the EIB did not accept the Ombudsman’s recommendation.

The Ombudsman therefore closed the inquiry, reiterating her findings.

Decision in case 1933/2018/KR on the European Commission’s action relating to the drawing up of the EU list of ‘Projects of Common Interest’ in the energy sector

Thursday | 28 November 2019

The case concerned the inclusion of a project on the EU’s third list of Projects of Common Interest (‘PCIs’). PCIs are infrastructure project proposals that the Commission considers will improve and integrate energy markets in the EU.

The complainant, a member of an NGO called ‘Safety Before LNG’, is concerned about the inclusion of a project on the PCI-list, namely the ‘Shannon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Terminal and connecting pipeline project’. He is of the view that this project should have been the subject of a strategic environmental assessment (SEA), before it was included on the third PCI-list.

The Commission pointed out that it is the responsibility of the Member States in which projects are carried out to ensure that the project meets all EU and national environmental rules. The Ombudsman noted, in this regard, that the Member State authorities in Ireland, including the courts, are carefully examining the compliance of the proposed gas terminal with EU law. The Ombudsman further accepted the Commission’s argument that it has no power to carry out an SEA. The Ombudsman thus found the Commission’s explanation on the matter to be convincing.

The Ombudsman takes note, however, of the complainant’s point about heightened awareness of the negative impact of certain fossil fuels on the climate. Given that the list of PCIs is intended to help the EU achieve its energy policy and climate objectives in accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement, she trusts that the Commission too will continue to pay particular attention to this issue of major importance to citizens.

Decision in case 2204/2018/TE on how the European Commission dealt with comments submitted under the notification procedure set up by the EU Single Market Transparency Directive

Thursday | 19 September 2019

The European Commission runs a publicly accessible database, which informs interested parties about national technical regulations communicated to the Commission by EU Member States before their adoption. The database also allows interested parties to submit comments on the proposed national technical regulations.

The complainant is an international technical association for generation and storage of power and heat. It submitted comments on proposed technical rules that Germany intended to introduce.

As the German authorities had requested the Commission to keep information about the measures confidential, only limited information about these measures was accessible via the public database. The complainant took issue with this. The complainant was also concerned about how the Commission dealt with its comments, as it did not receive a substantive reply from the Commission after it made its comments.

The Ombudsman found no maladministration in how the Commission dealt with the complainant’s comments made under the notification procedure. The Ombudsman suggested, however, that the Commission provide clear information in its acknowledgements of receipt and on the database website, as to what interested parties can expect in terms of the Commission’s reply to their comments. Regarding the information that is made available, the Ombudsman expects the Commission carefully to monitor Member States’ use of confidential notifications under the Single Market Transparency Directive and to take the necessary measures in case of suspected abuse of the confidentiality provision.

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.