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Failure to deal properly with requests for public access to documents [Article 23 ECGAB]

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Showing 1 - 20 of 531 results

Decision in strategic inquiry OI/1/2019/MIG concerning the transparency of the bodies involved in preparing Eurogroup meetings

Tuesday | 03 December 2019

This strategic inquiry concerned the transparency of the three preparatory bodies that are involved in preparing Eurogroup meetings. The focus of the inquiry was on requests for public access to documents concerning the work of the Eurogroup and these preparatory bodies, which the Council of the European Union and the European Commission have received since the Eurogroup took proactive transparency measures in 2016.

The Ombudsman found that both the Council and the Commission had dealt properly with the relevant public access requests. She further noted that, in the meantime, the Eurogroup had taken steps to improve its transparency policy. This includes the plan to create an online repository of publicly available Eurogroup documents and to provide more information about citizens’ right to request documents held by the Council. Further steps have been taken to enhance the transparency of the EWG.

In view of these improvements, the Ombudsman now closes this strategic inquiry.

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 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 1484/2019/UNK on the European Commission’s handling of a request for full public access to drafts of an article on the copyright directive published on the Commission's website

Monday | 02 December 2019

The case concerned the European Commission’s decision to redact the names of Commission staff members from a document before granting the complainant public access to it.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission was correct to redact the names. She therefore closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.  

Decision in case 357/2019/FP on the European Securities and Markets Authority’s refusal to grant public access to documents relating to contacts with stakeholders

Friday | 29 November 2019

The case concerned a refusal by the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) to grant the complainant public access to minutes and meeting records of contacts ESMA had with stakeholders regarding the EU’s Markets in Financial Instruments legislation (generally referred to as MiFID). ESMA initially argued that no official minutes of these meetings existed.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that there were some internal notes drafted by staff members about those meetings. The Ombudsman therefore proposed that ESMA should assess each document individually and consider whether it could release them, either partially or in their entirety.

ESMA agreed to the proposal for a solution and partially released 8 documents. The Ombudsman then closed the case, with a suggestion for improvement regarding the records of meetings.

Decision in case 1476/2019/EWM on how the European Commission dealt with a request for public access to documents relating to a Commission blog post

Friday | 29 November 2019

The case concerned a request for public access to internal communication relating to a blog post published by the European Commission. The blog post was, following public criticism, removed from the Internet. The Commission identified one document as falling within the scope of the complainant’s request.

The complainant questioned whether the Commission had identified and released all relevant documents. He considered that, if it were the case that the Commission had actively deleted such communications or classified them as short-lived, this would have been in contradiction with the Commission’s obligations regarding openness.

The Ombudsman has inquired into the issue and does not consider the absence of any record or other evidence of the existence or deletion of written communications on this matter to be unreasonable. The Ombudsman closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision in case 1409/2019/EWM on the European Parliament’s refusal to deal with requests for public access to documents concerning parliamentary missions to third countries

Thursday | 28 November 2019

The case concerned the refusal by the European Parliament to deal with a request for public access to documents related to missions by Members of the European Parliament to 112 countries and related to 13 specific committee missions.

EU access to documents rules allow EU institutions to refuse requests for very large numbers of documents if dealing with the request would entail an excessive administrative burden. This rule exists to ensure that dealing with access to documents requests does not seriously undermine the ability of institutions to carry out their core tasks. The Ombudsman found that the Parliament’s refusal to deal with the request was justified because the review of large numbers of voluminous documents would constitute an excessive administrative burden.

The Ombudsman thus closed the inquiry finding 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 1802/2019/EWM on the European Commission's refusal to provide access to a letter to Germany in an infringement procedure for non-respect of the Nitrates Directive

Thursday | 28 November 2019

The case concerned the refusal of the European Commission to grant the complainant public access to a document in an ongoing infringement procedure. The procedure concerns the implementation of the European Court of Justice’s judgment finding that Germany had infringed the Nitrates Directive.

Following an inspection of the documents, the Ombudsman confirmed that the infringement procedure was still ongoing and that the Commission’s refusal was legally justified.

The Ombudsman thus concluded that there was no maladministration on the part of the Commission and closed the case.

Decision in case 552/2018/MIG on the European Commission’s refusal of public access to documents concerning the German Network Enforcement Act

Wednesday | 20 November 2019

The case concerned a request for public access to documents held by the European Commission concerning the German Network Enforcement Act[1], a national law aimed at combating fake news on social networks.

The Ombudsman made a proposal for a solution, asking the Commission to re-consider its (partial) refusal to grant public access to the documents. The Commission did not reply within the deadline specified by the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman then made a recommendation to the Commission.

The Commission responded that it did not accept the Ombudsman’s recommendation.

The Ombudsman regrets that the Commission did not follow her recommendation. She maintains her findings of maladministration.

 

[1] In German the “Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz”, https://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/netzdg/.

Decision in case 1959/2018/MIG on the European External Action Service’s refusal to grant full public access to documents concerning the Global Tech Panel

Monday | 18 November 2019

The case concerned the European External Action Service’s (EEAS) refusal to grant full public access to documents concerning the Global Tech Panel. The EEAS identified four letters to Members of the Panel covered by the request.

The Ombudsman found that, whilst the EEAS had been justified in refusing full access to the letters, the redactions it had made were excessive. Therefore, the Ombudsman made a proposal for a solution asking the EEAS to grant increased partial access, with fewer redactions.

The EEAS accepted the Ombudsman’s proposal for a solution and granted the complainant increased partial access.

The Ombudsman thus closed the inquiry welcoming the solution that has been achieved.

Decision in case 1829/2019/EWM on the European Commission’s failure to grant access to documents relating to meetings between Commissioner Jourová and stakeholders

Tuesday | 12 November 2019

The case concerned a request for public access to documents related to four meetings between Commissioner Jourová and several external stakeholders. Having waited for a reply from the Commission for six months, the complainant turned to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman closed the inquiry because after her intervention, the Commission replied to the complainant and granted partial access to the requested documents.