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Decision in case 1134/2015/TN on the European Commission's decision to declare ineligible certain costs incurred by a partner to an EU funded project

Thursday | 11 February 2016

The case concerned the Commission's decision to declare ineligible certain costs declared by a partner to an EU funded project. The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that the Commission's grounds for not accepting the costs in question were reasonable. The Ombudsman therefore closed the case with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision in case 904/2014/OV on the European Commission's public consultation prior to its legislative proposal for a Regulation concerning the European single market for electronic communications

Tuesday | 22 September 2015

This complaint concerns an alleged failure by the European Commission to carry out an adequate public consultation in advance of drawing up its Proposal for a Regulation concerning the European single market for electronic communications and a Connected Continent. One item in the Proposal was the phasing out of roaming charges. The complaint was made by the Competitive Telecommunications Association. The Commission submitted its Proposal on 11 September 2013, a little more than three months after it had publicly announced it on 30 May 2013. The complainant alleged that the Commission had wrongly invoked urgency, arising from the Spring 2013 European Council, as a reason for rushing through the consultation process. In addition, the complainant argued that the Commission had failed (i) to identify the different types of stakeholders to be consulted, (ii) to address the points raised by the Impact Assessment Board, (iii) to carry out a proper inter-service consultation, and had also (iv) deliberately attempted to conceal the lack of a public consultation.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission's public consultation did not comply with the general principles and minimum standards specified in the Commission's own rules. The Ombudsman also found that it was unclear whether the urgency claimed by the Commission derived from the Council's statement or reflected the Commission's own assessment of the situation. However, the Ombudsman found that the Commission's reliance on its own right to set policy priorities, and to make policy choices, was reasonable in the particular context of this legislative proposal. Accordingly, the Ombudsman did not find any maladministration by the Commission arising from its limited public consultation in this case. However, the Ombudsman suggested that the Commission should clarify in its own rules the precise and limited circumstances in which it can curtail a public consultation because of a policy priority.

The Ombudsman found there was no maladministration in relation to any of the other complaint issues raised.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 1568/2012/(FOR)AN against the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)

Thursday | 11 December 2014

The case, lodged by the PETA Foundation, concerned the scope of the European Chemicals Agency's (ECHA's) powers and duties under the REACH Regulation. The complainant considered that ECHA does not do enough to ensure that registrants of chemical substances refrain from performing unnecessary animal tests in order to demonstrate their substances' safety.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that, indeed, ECHA's interpretation of its obligations was excessively restrictive. The Ombudsman thus made a friendly solution proposal to ECHA concerning its own role as well as the cooperation it should establish with Member States' authorities. The Ombudsman was satisfied with ECHA's reply and closed the case.


Decision of the European Ombudsman closing his inquiry into complaint 940/2011/JF against the European Commission

Monday | 30 September 2013

The complainant co-ordinated a consortium which was awarded a Commission grant to undertake an action in the field of eco-friendly construction. In the course of carrying out the action, the consortium requested reimbursement of the eligible costs incurred during the different reporting periods, in accordance with the contract signed with the Commission. The Commission, however, agreed to pay only 45.75% of those costs. The complainant considered that the Commission was wrong to limit its reimbursements to the above rate and complained to the European Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman found that, under the contract, the 45.75% reimbursement rate applied to the overall Union contribution to the action. The contract made no reference to any rate for interim payments. Furthermore, before the consortium requested payment of the costs incurred during the first reporting period, a Commission official informed it that interim payments could be made at different reimbursement rates. The Ombudsman therefore proposed a friendly solution to the Commission, inviting it to (i) properly explain why it applied the above-mentioned rate to interim payments to the consortium; and (ii) ensure that it pay the consortium the balance, in accordance with the contract, once the action was over.

The Commission argued that it systematically applied the 45.75% rate to interim payments in order to ensure sound financial management of the EU budget and to avoid future complicated recovery procedures. The Ombudsman was not satisfied with that reply. He pointed out, among other things, that the Commission could have drawn up guidelines that would have enabled the consortium correctly to interpret the contract in that respect. Nevertheless, since all grant agreements now include a very clear provision indicating that interim reimbursements will be made at the rate applicable to the Union's overall contribution to the action, the Ombudsman concluded that no further inquiries in this respect were justified. Finally, in a further remark, he invited the Commission to inform him how it complied with its assurances that it would pay the consortium all outstanding amounts at the end of the action.