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Showing 1 - 20 of 150 results

Decision of the European Ombudsman in case OI/1/2020/LM on the European External Action Service´s decision (EEAS) not to pay a severance grant to a retired staff member of the EU Delegation to Algeria

Friday | 29 January 2021

The complaint concerned the European External Action Service’s (EEAS) decision not to pay a severance grant to a locally hired staff member in the EU Delegation to Algeria. The Delegation had supported paying the grant, arguing that this had been the practice based on an administrative note.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that the staff member had no ‘legitimate expectation’, in the legal sense, to receive a severance grant. She thus closed the case with a finding of no-maladministration. The Ombudsman pointed out, however, that it was regrettable that the EEAS had failed to ensure clear and consistent communication to staff about the rules applying to the individuals in question. This lack of clarity left the staff member concerned with an incorrect understanding of the situation. As the EEAS is phasing out the relevant staff category, the Ombudsman will not pursue this matter. She trusts, however, that the EEAS will, in the meantime, ensure that the employment conditions applicable to the individuals in question are clarified.

Decision in case 1219/2020/MIG on how the European Council dealt with a request for public access to mobile phone based messages supposedly sent by its then President to heads of state and government

Monday | 26 October 2020

The case concerned a request for public access to text messages sent in 2018 by the then President of the European Council to heads of state and government. The European Council said that it did not hold such text messages. The complainants expressed doubts that no documents falling within the scope of their request for access were in the possession of the European Council.

The Ombudsman noted that there is a legal presumption that the European Council does not hold the relevant documents, and that this presumption had not been rebutted by the arguments and evidence put forward by the complainants. As such, she found no maladministration in this particular case.

Having said that, the complaint raises important issues, notably the need for adequate record-keeping when it comes to instant messages. It is clear that text and instant messaging is increasingly used for professional communication, including communication of substantive information. In light of their duty to draw up and retain documentation pertaining to their activities, EU institutions should reflect this reality in their respective rules on the registration of documents, ensuring that relevant communication is properly recorded.

Decision in case 1029/2020/DL on the European External Action Service’s refusal to give public access to documents containing information on Member States’ troop contributions to EU missions and operations

Monday | 19 October 2020

The complainant sought public access to documents containing information related to EU missions and operations conducted under the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

The European External Action Service (EEAS) disclosed five documents falling under the scope of the request. However, it refused access to documents containing information on individual troop contributions of Member States, considering that it is for each Member State to provide this information. The EEAS moreover stated that disclosing these documents could undermine the protection of the public interest as regards public security, defence and military matters, and international relations.

After her inquiry team inspected the documents, it was confirmed that they indeed contain highly sensitive information. Thus, the Ombudsman concluded that the EEAS was justified in refusing access and closed the inquiry finding no maladministration.

Decision in case 987/2020/EWM on how the European External Action Service dealt with a request for public access to documents related to a secure instant messaging system and to a possible Data Protection Impact Assessment

Tuesday | 15 September 2020

The complaint concerned the refusal of the European External Action Service (EEAS) to grant public access to documents about a secure instant messaging system used to exchange sensitive and classified information within the EEAS. The EEAS stated that disclosure of the documents would undermine public security.

The Ombudsman examined the content of the documents and agreed, on that basis, that the EEAS was justified in refusing public access. She therefore found no maladministration and closed the case.

Decision in case 1553/2019/NH on the role of the EU’s Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside of the EU

Thursday | 30 July 2020

The case concerned the role and mandate of the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside of the EU. The Special Envoy served as a special adviser to the Commission between 2016 and 2019. The complainant, an MEP, was concerned about the Special Envoy’s interactions with certain organisations which she argued pursue an “anti-human rights agenda”. The Ombudsman opened an inquiry into how the Commission monitored the role of the Special Envoy.

The Ombudsman found that the mandate of the Special Envoy, as a unique function in the EU administration, was not sufficiently clear. Moreover, the documents setting out this mandate and the Special Envoy’s work plan were not available to the public. The Special Envoy was mandated however, to engage in dialogue with civil society organisations. The Commission assessed that the Special Envoy did not breach this mandate by engaging with the organisations mentioned in the complaint. The Ombudsman however has judged that greater attention should have been paid to the risk from the perception of this highly sensitive post being exploited given the clashes that can emerge between freedom of religion and belief and other fundamental rights and freedoms.

Given the shortcomings identified, the Ombudsman closed the inquiry with three suggestions for improvement. She invited the Commission to give clearer guidance to future Special Envoys about the need to take into account the full range of human rights when making statements and interacting with stakeholders. She further suggested that the Commission clarify the extent to which future Special Envoys have the mandate to speak on behalf of the Commission and invited the Commission to make their mandate and work plan publicly available.

Decision in case 785/2020/MIG on how the European External Action Service dealt with a request for public access to a document concerning the environmental impact of a gold mine in Armenia

Thursday | 16 July 2020

The case concerned a request for public access to a note on the environmental, economic and political aspects of a gold mining project in Armenia. The EEAS granted wide partial access, arguing that the disclosure of the remaining parts of the note would undermine the protection of the public interest as regards international relations. The complainant considered that the redacted parts contained environmental information and should therefore be disclosed.

The Ombudsman found that the EEAS had disclosed all environmental information contained in the document and that the EEAS’ application of the exemption for the protection of international relations was reasonable.

The Ombudsman therefore closed the inquiry finding no maladministration.