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Decision in cases 1056/2018/JN and 1369/2019/JN on the European Commission’s actions regarding the respect for fundamental labour rights in Bangladesh in the context of the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences

Tuesday | 24 March 2020

The case concerned the actions taken by the European Commission regarding Bangladesh in the context of the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences. The complainants considered that Bangladesh does not fully respect fundamental labour rights and that, therefore, the Commission should start the procedure allowing it to withdraw Bangladesh’s trade preferences under the scheme.

The Commission informed the Ombudsman of how it has engaged with Bangladesh on the issue so far and the actions it has taken. It said that it may decide to withdraw Bangladesh’s trade preferences as a measure of last resort.

The decision as to whether or not to launch a withdrawal procedure involves complex policy judgments. The Commission has a broad margin of discretion in determining when to do so. The Ombudsman took the view that the explanations the Commission had provided for its chosen course of action were reasonable. She closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision in case 1052/2019/MMO on how the European Commission dealt with a complaint concerning the European Molecular Biology Laboratory

Thursday | 23 January 2020

The complainant had contacted the European Commission to raise concerns about what he saw as the failure of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) to comply with health and safety rules. The complainant argued that the Commission had a responsibility to monitor EMBL activities, as the Commission is an ‘observer’ on the council of the EMBL, which also receives EU funding. The Commission, for its part, said that it was not responsible for the activities of the EMBL.

In the context of her inquiry, the Ombudsman asked the Commission to provide a more comprehensive reply to the complainant. The Commission replied that organisations in receipt of EU funds must adhere to ethical principles and all national and international law, including health and safety regulations. The Commission invited the complainant to identify the grant agreement under which the EMBL received funding for the activities at issue and provide more information on the alleged breaches.

The Ombudsman found the Commission’s reply to be reasonable and closed the case.