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Showing 1 - 20 of 273 results

Decision in case 1481/2019/MH on how the European Commission dealt with an infringement complaint against the Netherlands concerning the importation of potentially unsafe lighters

Friday | 06 March 2020

The case concerned the time taken by the European Commission to deal with a complaint from a manufacturer of lighters alleging that the Netherlands was infringing EU law. The complainant was particularly concerned that the Commission had not taken the next formal step in the procedure since July 2014, when it had asked the Netherlands for further information about the case.

The Ombudsman acknowledges that more than nine years to conduct an investigation into an infringement complaint is a very long time. However, based on the Commission’s extensive information gathering and its analysis, and the extent of its engagement with the Dutch authorities and the complainant, the Ombudsman has not found undue delay in the Commission’s handling of this case. Over the nine-year period, the Commission had approximately six rounds of information gathering with the Netherlands, while the complainant submitted reports and studies on more than 18 occasions. The complainant also met with the Commission at least 13 times.

As the Commission has now sent a letter to the complainant informing it of its intention to close the case, the Ombudsman considers that no further inquiries are justified.

Recommendation of the European Ombudsman in case 1069/2019/MIG on sponsorship of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union

Monday | 06 January 2020

Made in accordance with Article 3(6) of the Statute of the European Ombudsman[1]

This case concerns the sponsorship of the Presidency of the Council of the EU. The complainant considered that the Council should regulate or prohibit sponsorship.

The Council argued that the sponsorship of the Presidency is the sole responsibility of the Member State government responsible for the Presidency, and that it could therefore not address the matter.

The Ombudsman notes that the Presidency is part of the Council, and must operate in a neutral and impartial manner. When the Presidency organises a meeting or another activity, whether in Brussels or in its home Member State, the wider European public is bound to perceive this activity as linked to the Council and the EU as a whole.

As such, the Council’s stance that it has no responsibility when it comes to sponsorship of the Council Presidency, which ignores the risk of reputational damage to the neutrality of the Presidency, constitutes maladministration. The Ombudsman therefore makes a recommendation that the Council issue guidance to Member States on the issue of sponsorship of the Presidency to mitigate the reputational risks to the EU.


[1] Decision of the European Parliament of 9 March 1994 on the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of the Ombudsman's duties (94/262/ECSC, EC, Euratom):  

Decision in case 2142/2018/EWM on the European Commission’s refusal to grant access to Member State positions on a guidance document concerning the risk assessment of pesticides on bees

Tuesday | 03 December 2019

The complainant, an environmental NGO, made a request for public access to documents containing the positions taken by Member States in a committee dealing with the risk assessment of how pesticides affect bees. The Commission refused access to the documents. It argued that its rules of procedure require that the positions of individual Member States not be disclosed and that public disclosure of Member States’ positions would prevent Member States from frankly expressing their views.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that the Commission was wrong to refuse access to the documents. She considered that the documents, should benefit from the wider public access granted to ‘legislative documents’. Moreover, she considered that wider public access was needed as the documents contain environmental information. She thus recommended that the Commission disclose the documents.

The Commission has chosen not to follow the Ombudsman’s recommendation. This is disappointing. Transparent decision-making regarding procedures which are of general interest and application is a cornerstone of democracy. This is all the more important when the decision-making relates to the protection of the environment.

The Ombudsman confirms that the Commission’s continued refusal to grant the complainant access to the requested documents constitutes maladministration.

Decision in case 608/2018/VB on the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency’s (Chafea) handling of a request to amend a framework partnership agreement

Monday | 21 October 2019

The case concerned the decision of the Consumers, Health, Agriculture and Food Executive Agency (Chafea) to reject a request to amend a framework partnership agreement in the field of health.

The Ombudsman found that Chafea’s decision was reasonable because the complainant was not in a position to produce the necessary documentation proving its partial takeover of rights and obligations from the bankrupt coordinator. Moreover, although the length of time the procedure took was regrettable, the Ombudsman found that the procedure took time mainly because of Chafea’s efforts to find a solution.

The Ombudsman thus closed the inquiry finding no maladministration.

Decision in case 1585/2018/MH on how the European Commission dealt with concerns raised by an Italian region about a steel plant acquisition

Monday | 09 September 2019

The case is about how the European Commission dealt with concerns surrounding the acquisition of a steel plant in Italy. An Italian region complained to the Ombudsman that the Commission had not given it sufficient opportunity to raise its concerns, before approving the acquisition under the EU Merger Rules.

The Commission’s competition department had a call with the complainant before it approved the acquisition. On that call, it gave the complainant reasonable explanations about why its legal concerns were not relevant to the Commission’s assessment. It also became apparent during that call that the complainant was focussing on the environment rather than on competition matters. The Commission thus referred it to the relevant department, in line with the principles of good administration. The complainant then had the opportunity to provide that department with further information on its environmental concerns.

The Ombudsman therefore closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.