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Report of the European Ombudsman on the inspection of DG AGRI's files in own-initiative inquiry OI/7/2014/NF

Concerning: The composition of civil dialogue groups hosted by DG AGRI

Institution or body concerned: European Commission

Date and time: 5 December 2014, 10.00-13:00

Location: Brussels, rue de la Loi 102 1/25

Inspection carried out by: Ms Nastasja Fuxa, Complaints and Inquiries Unit 4

Ms Tina Nilsson, Head of Complaints and Inquiries Unit 4

Commission represented by: Mr Pascal Lefèvre, SG.F.3
Ms Lene Naesager, AGRI.R.4

Ms Nadezhda Naydenova, AGRI.R.4

Mr Michel Van Nimmen, AGRI.DDG4.I.3

Ms Brigita Sabaliauskaite, AGRI.DDG4.I.3

Introduction and procedural aspects

The Ombudsman's representatives introduced themselves and outlined the legal framework which applies to the Ombudsman's services when they carry out inspections. In particular, they informed the Commission's representatives that the applicable rules provide that no access to copies of documents identified by the Commission as confidential may be granted to persons outside the Ombudsman's office[1].

The Ombudsman's representatives explained the scope and purpose of the inspection within the context of the Ombudsman's own-initiative inquiry OI/7/2014/NF (see below).

The Commission's representatives gave the Ombudsman's representatives two copies of a 'note to the file', drawn up by DG AGRI R.4., dated 4 December 2014. The note sets out explanatory information on (i) the background and history, (ii) the reasoning on the balanced composition of the civil dialogue groups, and (iii) the process with regard to the civil dialogue groups.

Scope and purpose of the inspection

The Ombudsman's representatives recalled that the own-initiative inquiry concerning the composition of civil dialogue groups hosted by DG AGRI was opened against the background of the novel framework for civil dialogue in matters covered by the common agricultural policy, put in place with Commission decision 2013/767/EU of 16 December 2013. On 18 July 2014, DG AGRI appointed members to 13 of the 14 initially foreseen civil dialogue groups. It is the objective of the own-initiative inquiry to review how DG AGRI has implemented the novel framework for civil dialogue groups, in particular the legally binding requirement of a balanced representation of economic and non-economic interests, when appointing members to the groups. The purpose of the inspection was thus to examine the Commission's file on the composition of DG AGRI's civil dialogue groups, with a view to allowing the Ombudsman to carry out such a review.

Information obtained during the inspection

In her letter informing the Commission of the opening of the own-initiative inquiry, the Ombudsman had invited the Commission to consider informing members appointed to the civil dialogue groups that their appointment may be reviewed in light of the Ombudsman's future findings as to the balanced composition of the groups. The Ombudsman's representatives asked whether the Commission had done so. The Commission's representatives stated that the matter had been discussed internally but that it had finally not informed the appointed members of that possibility.

The inspection of the file

The Ombudsman's representatives inspected the documents contained in the following folders:

Concerning the appointment of members to the civil dialogue groups:

(i) Folder CDG 01-06

(ii) Folder CDG 07-13

(iii) Folder CDG animal products

(iv) Folder CDG milk

(v) Folder CDG rural development

Concerning communication with stakeholders:

(i) Folder on communication with different stakeholders ('ONG A-E')

(ii) Folder on communication with different stakeholders ('ONG F-Z')

(iii) Folder on communication with COPA-COGECA

(iv) Folder on miscellaneous issues and communication with MEPs and the Committee of the Regions ('Généralités - Parlement - Comité des Régions')

(v) Folder on letters from DG to MEPs

(vi) Folder on decisions to the applicants

(vii) Folder on background information ('chronology 2008-2012')

(viii) Folder on background information ('chronology 2013-2014')

(ix) Folder on background information ('chronology CDG March 2014 to November 2014')

Other documents:

Tables on the allocation of seats in the process of appointing members to the civil dialogue groups (12 pages).

Documents obtained

The Ombudsman's representatives requested copies of the documents contained in all of the above-mentioned folders, except for the folder 'chronology 2008-2012'. With regard to the folder 'chronology 2013-2014', copies were requested only of certain documents.

The Ombudsman's representatives received immediately the documents in the folder 'decisions to the applicants', as well the tables on the allocation of seats in the process of appointing members to the civil dialogue groups (12 pages).

As for the rest of the documents, it was agreed that the Commission would make copies for the Ombudsman's office to be picked up at a later point in time.

The copies of the remaining documents were picked up by representatives of the Ombudsman's office on 17 December 2014, at 16.15, in rue de la Loi 102 1/25.

The Commission's representatives identified all the inspected documents as confidential, in accordance with Article 5(2) of the European Ombudsman's Implementing Provisions. The requested documents in the file were thus stamped 'CONFIDENTIAL' and initialled by a representative of the Commission and a representative of the Ombudsman's office.

Brussels, 18 December 2014

Ms Nastasja Fuxa

Legal Officer (handling the inquiry)

 

Ms Tina Nilsson

Head of Complaints and Inquiries Unit 4

 

[1] Articles 13(3) and 14(2) of the European Ombudsman's Implementing Provisions.