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Regional policy and coordination of structural instruments

Showing 1 - 20 of 30 results

Decision in case 960/2016/TM on the European Investment Bank´s alleged failure to handle a complaint in a timely manner

Monday | 04 December 2017

The case concerned the alleged failure of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Complaints Mechanism to handle a complaint in a timely manner. The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that the delay was justified due to the complexity of the subject matter of the complaint. The Ombudsman therefore found no maladministration by the EIB.

Decision in case 1102/2016/JN on the Commission’s failure to reply to correspondence and to fully disclose a document

Friday | 13 January 2017

The case concerned the Commission’s failure to reply to the complainant’s correspondence in the context of a financial audit at the Member State level. Following the Ombudsman’s intervention, the Commission replied. It disclosed the document requested by the complainant but redacted some personal data (names of physical persons). The Ombudsman found that the Commission correctly justified the redaction under Regulation 45/2001.

Decision of the European Ombudsman in case 1229/2014/ZA on OLAF's handling of allegations concerning mismanagement of EU funds in Greece

Monday | 12 October 2015

The complainant informed OLAF of alleged mismanagement of EU funds in Greece. OLAF failed to acknowledge the complainant's correspondence and failed also to inform the complainant of whatever action it had taken and of the outcome. Following the Ombudsman's intervention, OLAF acknowledged the procedural shortcomings in its handling of the case and apologised. It also took steps to avoid similar situations in the future. Finally, OLAF informed the complainant of the steps it had taken as regards the substance of its case. The Ombudsman concluded that OLAF had settled the complaint. However the Ombudsman made a further remark with a view to improving OLAF procedures as regards its monitoring of closed cases transmitted to competent national authorities.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing her own-initiative inquiry OI/8/2014/AN concerning the European Commission

Monday | 11 May 2015

This own-initiative inquiry concerns how the European Commission ensures that the fundamental rights enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union are complied with when EU cohesion policy is implemented by Member States. It was launched as the Union embarked on a new seven-year period of funding, covering 2014-2020, under a new legal framework.

EU cohesion policy seeks to reduce disparities between the levels of development of the various regions in the EU. Given the visibility of the Union in the projects that are funded through the cohesion policy – from improving emergency services in Romania to removing minefields in Croatia – the Ombudsman believes that the Commission should do all in its power to ensure respect for fundamental rights as the money is spent. The fact that the Commission is not directly responsible for managing the funds should never be used as a reason for not acting if fundamental rights have been, or risk being violated.

The own-initiative inquiry has involved the Commission, national ombudsmen and representatives of civil society. On the basis of their feedback, the Ombudsman has produced eight guidelines for improvement to support the Commission as it supervises the Member States in this area.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 1205/2013/JF against the European Commission

Thursday | 05 March 2015

The case concerned a Swedish company that participated in a project financed by the European Commission's FP7 programme. Whilst the project was being implemented, the Commission decided to audit the company. The company disagreed with the audit results and, after the Commission had confirmed them, lodged a complaint with the European Ombudsman alleging a lack of objectivity on the part of the Commission and a failure to comply with the applicable rules.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found no maladministration by the Commission. In particular, the audit results relating to the company's labour costs were based on the information that was available to the Commission at the relevant time. She suggested to the complainant that if it has further evidence, it consider submitting it to the Commission for its consideration. As regards the calculation of the company's productive time, the information which the complainant provided did not appear to be sufficient to permit the Commission to calculate the actual individual productive time, in accordance with the requirements of the FP7 rules. Consequently, the Ombudsman closed the case.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 443/2011/(IP)(EIS)ER against the Executive Agency for Competitiveness and Innovation (EACI)

Tuesday | 04 March 2014

The complainant is an Italian company. In 2008, it entered into a Grant Agreement with the EACI within the framework of the EU's Marco Polo II programme, which supports actions aimed at transferring freight from transport by road to other, more environmentally friendly, means of transport.

The action proposed by the complainant concerned exports by the Italian ceramic industry to Spain and was awarded a grant of up to EUR 4 million. However, due to the global economic crisis and the sudden decline of the Spanish housing market, demand for transporting ceramics from Italy to Spain decreased dramatically after the Grant Agreement was signed. Consequently, the EACI accepted the complainant's request to suspend the implementation of the action. In June 2010, given that the complainant had not been able to resume the project, it terminated the Grant Agreement and informed the complainant that it had 60 days to submit a final report and to request a final payment. The complainant only submitted a request for a EUR 2 million final payment in January 2011. In the EACI's view, this was too late.

In its complaint to the European Ombudsman, the complainant alleged that the EACI had acted unfairly. The complainant argued that the delay in submitting the request for final payment was justified by its attempts, made in good faith, to resume the action and that, in the absence of a final report, the EACI should at least have based itself on the figures resulting from an interim report submitted to it in October 2009. In its opinion, the EACI took the view that it had fully complied with the provisions of the Grant Agreement.

The Ombudsman recalled that the notion of good administration is broader than the one of legality. The Ombudsman stressed that although the EACI was not legally obliged to do so, the Grant Agreement did not prevent it from accepting late requests for final payment. In light of (i) the particularly severe impact that the economic crisis had on the complainant's project, and (ii) the fact that the EACI had already approved the interim report submitted in October 2009, the Ombudsman took the view that the Agency's decision to reject the complainant's request for final payment was not entirely fair. The Ombudsman therefore made a proposal for a friendly solution, inviting the EACI to assess the complainant's request for a EUR 2 million final payment on the basis of the complainant's interim report of October 2009. The EACI accepted the proposal and the Ombudsman closed the case.

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing his inquiry into complaint 1786/2011/(GRK)MHZ against the European Commission

Friday | 17 May 2013

The complainant submitted to the European Commission an infringement complaint against Poland concerning a project for the construction of a road bridge with access roads ('the Project') which was co-financed by the EU Cohesion Fund and a loan from the European Investment Bank. He alleged that the Commission should not have agreed to the co-financing because there were hidden reasons (fraud and political pressure) behind the choice of location for the Project. In its reply to the complainant, the Commission did not substantiate its finding that there was no infringement of EU law and, in particular, it did not reply to his specific allegations on (i) 'salami slicing'; (ii) the unjustified choice of location for the Project; and (iii) lack of public consultations.

The Ombudsman appreciated that during the inquiry, the Commission remedied its initial failure and provided exhaustive replies to the complainant's allegations. However, it also became clear during the Ombudsman's inquiry that, despite its finding that there was no infringement, the Commission did not close the infringement case. Instead, it decided to suspend the infringement investigations until 20 December 2012, the date on which it sent the pre-closure letter. The Ombudsman found that this administrative solution was not properly justified, even if the finding as such was correct. He therefore made a critical remark. As regards the Commission's approval of the Polish application for co-financing, the Ombudsman did not find any wrongdoing. However, he noted that the Commission did not seek to clarify the allegations of corruption before deciding positively on the Polish application for co-funding, and made a further remark in this respect.