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Decision in case 21/2016/JAP on the Council of the EU’s failure to grant access to legal opinions on proposals for Regulations on the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and on the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (EUROJUST)

Thursday | 07 March 2019

The case concerned the refusal of the Council of the European Union to grant full access to legal opinions on the legislative proposals for Regulations on the establishment of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) and on the European Union Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation (EUROJUST).

In the course of the Ombudsman’s inquiry, the Council agreed to disclose two of the four documents, but maintained its refusal to disclose fully the two remaining documents, although partial access was granted.

The Ombudsman accepts that the refusal to disclose the legal opinions fully was justified on the grounds that it would undermine the protection of legal advice and court proceedings. She therefore closes the case with a finding of no maladministration, but invites the Council to review its refusal in light of the further passage of time.

Decision of the European Ombudsman setting out proposals following her strategic inquiry OI/8/2015/JAS concerning the transparency of Trilogues

Thursday | 18 January 2018

This strategic inquiry concerns the transparency of an important informal part of the EU legislative process, namely, the transparency of “Trilogues”.

The EU’s two legislative bodies, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, enact legislation following a proposal by the European Commission. During this process, both co-legislators, assisted by the Commission, often negotiate in so-called Trilogues, which are informal meetings between representatives of the three institutions involved. During a Trilogue, Parliament and Council try to agree a common text, based on their initial positions, which is then voted on according to the formal legislative procedure. Trilogues have proven to be very effective at reaching such agreements, and most legislation is now adopted this way.

The European Union is a representative democracy, where citizens have the right to hold their representatives accountable for the political choices made on their behalf. Citizens also have the right to participate in the EU’s democratic process. The transparency of Trilogues is a key element in ensuring that these rights are made effective and in legitimising the laws made by the EU. The EU Court of Justice has stated that the ability of EU citizens to find out the considerations that underpin legislative action is a precondition for the effective exercise of their democratic rights.

While the EU legislative process in general is quite transparent, including in comparison to many Member States, this part of the process has raised concerns about the balance between the efficiency of the Trilogue process and its transparency.

Against this background, the European Ombudsman opened a strategic inquiry. She examined which information and documents should be made proactively available to the public, and at what point in time, so that citizens can make use of their rights.

Trilogue transparency is an essential element of EU law-making legitimacy. Citizens must be in a position to scrutinise the performance of their representatives during this key part of the legislative process. Citizens also require information on the topics under discussion during Trilogues to be able to participate effectively in the legislative process.

The Ombudsman welcomes the progress so far on improving the transparency of Trilogues; however she proposes that the three institutions make the following documentation and information publicly available: Trilogue dates, initial positions of the three institutions, general Trilogue agendas, “four-column” documents, final compromise texts, Trilogue notes that have been made public, lists of the political decision makers involved and as far as possible a list of other documents tabled during the negotiations. All of these should be made available on an easy-to-use and easy-to-understand joint database. While some documents could be made available while Trilogue negotiations are ongoing, the institutions might consider it necessary in the public interest to provide proactive public access to certain types of documents only after negotiations have ended.

Decision in case 1455/2015/JAP on the conditions at a test centre for a selection competition organised by the European Personnel Selection Office

Tuesday | 07 November 2017

The case concerned the European Personnel Selection Office’s (EPSO) handling of a complaint about the conditions at a test centre for a selection competition for EU civil servants. The complainant had been assigned a computer beside the entrance door, and claimed the disruption caused by people entering and leaving the room negatively affected her performance. Her attempts to have her concerns dealt with by staff at the test centre were unsuccessful and she subsequently complained to EPSO. Dissatisfied with how EPSO dealt with her complaint, she then turned to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and requested that EPSO look into the complaint more thoroughly. The Ombudsman’s inquiry team also met with representatives from EPSO and the contractor responsible for managing the tests, and visited a test centre at EPSO’s headquarters. The Ombudsman concluded that, overall, further inquiries in this case were not justified; however, she made a number of suggestions for improvement to EPSO.

Decision in case 515/2016/JAP on the European Asylum Support Office’s probationary assessment of a temporary agent

Friday | 28 April 2017

The case concerned the assessment of the probationary period of a temporary agent at the European Asylum Support Office (‘EASO’). The complainant, who was dismissed at the end of her probationary period, argued that there were a number of procedural shortcomings in her assessment. Moreover, the EASO failed to reply to her complaints made under the EU Staff Regulations.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and requested the EASO to reply to the complaints. She found that the EASO had taken the necessary steps to ensure an impartial assessment of the complainant’s probationary period and had respected the complainant’s right to be heard before taking the final decision on her further employment. The Ombudsman thus closed the case.

Decision in case 1093/2016/JAP concerning the European Commission’s failure to reply to correspondence about problems with the submission of a grant proposal

Thursday | 01 December 2016

The case concerned the Commission’s failure to reply to the complainant’s messages concerning its difficulties with the submission of a grant proposal. Due to technical problems, the complainant was not able to apply through the Commission’s system PRIAMOS. Instead, it submitted its proposal by e-mail, which remained unanswered.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and asked the Commission to reply. In its reply, the Commission apologised for not having replied earlier. It said that it could not accept the complainant’s e-mail application because the system had functioned properly and the Commission had not been able to identify any attempts by the complainant to send the proposal via PRIAMOS before the deadline.