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Thursday | 22 November 2012

Access to documents

Thursday | 22 November 2012

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing his inquiry into complaint 427/2011/MHZ against the European Commission

Tuesday | 22 November 2011

Regulation (EC) 2187/2005 for the conservation of fishery resources through technical measures in the Baltic Sea, the Belts and the Sound requires the Commission to ensure, by 1 January 2008, that a scientific assessment of the effects of using, in particular, gillnets, trammel nets, and entangling nets on cetaceans is conducted and that its findings are presented to the European Parliament and Council.

The Commission asked a scientific institute to carry out such an assessment, but the latter was not able to do so due to the lack of relevant reports on incidental catches of cetaceans. These reports should have been submitted to the Commission by the Member States, pursuant to another regulation.

In 2009, the Commission adopted a communication in which it reported to the Parliament and the Council that the carrying out of the scientific assessment was not possible. The complainant, a Polish fisherman, argued that, as a result, the Commission failed to comply with its obligation under Regulation 2187/2005. The complainant therefore turned to the Ombudsman.

Throughout the Ombudsman's inquiry, the Commission did not justify why it had not used all the means at its disposal to ensure national compliance with the other Regulation and thus provide the scientific institute with the necessary data for the assessment required by Regulation 2187/2005. The Ombudsman considered that this failure constituted an instance of maladministration. He issued a critical remark to the effect that the Commission failed to demonstrate that it was objectively impossible for it to discharge itself of the obligation to ensure that, by 1 January 2008, a scientific assessment of the effects on cetaceans of using, in particular, gillnets, trammel nets, and entangling nets was carried out.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing his inquiry into complaint 1733/2009/JF against the European Commission

Tuesday | 25 October 2011

The complainant, a French university, participated in a consortium that developed a Commission-sponsored project. After experiencing problems with the coordinator, the complainant withdrew from the project. The Commission then claimed reimbursement of some of the payments it had made to the complainant. The complainant found the Commission's claims unfair and turned to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman opened an inquiry in the course of which the Commission provided him with a detailed account of the amounts it had paid to the complainant. It explained that the complainant had failed to submit the necessary reports and deliverables in due time, as required by the contract. It further referred to a proposal it had made to the coordinator that the complainant provide the relevant documents even after the contractual deadline.

Since the complainant appeared not to have been aware of the above proposal, the Ombudsman asked the Commission to consider accepting the submission of a report from the complainant relating to its participation in the project. The Commission agreed and stated that, if justified, it could also reduce the amounts claimed from the complainant. The Ombudsman found that the Commission had settled the complaint and closed the case.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing his inquiry into complaint 865/2008/OV against the European Commission

Friday | 15 January 2010

In order to protect the sustainability of the EU fisheries, the EU legislator can adopt measures to limit fishing efforts throughout the Union. In the Council Regulation fixing the number of fishing days in Community waters for the year 2007, the number of days allocated to a specific category of vessels fishing in the West of Scotland was reduced by 10% - from 280 days in 2006 to 252 days. As a result, the Clyde Fishermen's Association, representing fishermen in the area concerned, turned to the Ombudsman. The complainant alleged that the said reduction was the result of an administrative error committed by the European Commission in a 'Non-Paper' which formed the basis of discussions surrounding this issue in the Council. According to the complainant, the Commission mistakenly interchanged the relevant columns concerning the West of Scotland and the North Sea in a table setting out the proposed reductions.

In its opinion, the Commission argued that the said reduction was discussed and approved by the Member States and that no administrative error had occurred.

Upon a close examination of the Non-Paper, the Ombudsman found that, although the said table included a proposal for reducing the fishing days for the West of Scotland, the explanations given in the Non-Paper did not envisage such a reduction. The Ombudsman thus concluded that an administrative error had indeed occurred. He, therefore, made a draft recommendation to the Commission, inviting it to acknowledge the error and, as far as was still possible, to take rectifying measures.

The Commission rejected the draft recommendation. It reiterated its argument that the relevant proposal had been made deliberately and was based on scientific evidence which showed that cod in the West of Scotland was in a critical state. The Commission also stated that the Non-Paper was not relevant, given that it had been superseded by its formal proposal for the Council Regulation. Moreover, even if an error had occurred, it would no longer be possible to take rectifying measures.

In his decision, the Ombudsman pointed out that the fact that the Non-Paper was superseded by the Commission's formal legislative proposal did not imply that there was no longer any need to examine possible maladministration concerning the Non-Paper. The Ombudsman further found that the available evidence showed that expert bodies had recommended that no cod be caught in 2007 in both the West of Scotland and in the North Sea. However, the Commission's Non-Paper did not opt for a total ban, but proposed that reductions should be made as regards the fleets accounting for the greatest impact on the cod stocks. As regards the West of Scotland, the Commission considered that this applied to fleets accounting for more than 50 tonnes of cod catches. However, the category of vessels concerned by the present case did not seem to fall into that group. The Ombudsman, therefore, confirmed his view that an administrative error appeared to have occurred. Given that the Commission's arguments concerning the impossibility to take remedial action appeared to be reasonable, the Ombudsman closed the case with a critical remark.