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Showing 1 - 20 of 82 results

Decision in case 1991/2019/KR on the European Commission’s action concerning sustainability assessment for gas projects on the current List of Projects of Common Interest

Tuesday | 17 November 2020

The case concerned the inclusion of gas projects on the EU’s 2019 list of Projects of Common Interest (PCIs).These are cross-border energy infrastructure projects that should help achieve EU energy and climate policy objectives. The complainant was concerned that the sustainability of gas projects on that PCI list had not been satisfactorily assessed, as is required.

The Commission had already acknowledged that the sustainability assessment of candidate gas projects had been suboptimal due to a lack of data and inadequate methodologies. In the course of the inquiry, the Commission informed the Ombudsman that it is updating the criterion used for assessing the sustainability of projects that are candidates for inclusion on the next PCI list, which it will draw up in 2021.

Among other things, this update is expected to take into account the CO2 and methane balance, as well as efficiency impacts, in the assessment of projects. The indicator is expected to reflect the infrastructure’s expected impact on the overall greenhouse gas intensity of energy production in a given EU Member State and the emissions related to the functioning of the infrastructure itself.

The Ombudsman welcomes the fact that the Commission will ensure that this update is in place before the decision is taken on the next PCI list. The adoption date for the next PCI list is foreseen in the last quarter of 2021.

Given the EU’s objectives concerning climate change and sustainability, it is regrettable that gas projects were included on previous PCI lists, without having their sustainability properly assessed. This meant that it was not possible to rank them to identify the most sustainable ones. However, the Commission is taking the necessary action with the result that no further inquiries of the Ombudsman are justified at this point.


 

Recommendation of the European Ombudsman in case 1944/2019/DL on the transparency of Member State deliberations on a Commission proposal for a regulation implementing the Eco-design Directive

Monday | 27 July 2020

The complaint concerns the refusal by the Commission to grant public access to four audio recordings, in which Member State civil servants discuss a Commission proposal for a regulation implementing the Eco-design Directive, and an email relating to the same discussion. The Commission considered that disclosing the recordings and email would undermine its decision-making and infringe the EU data protection rights of the persons heard on the recording.

EU access to documents rules apply to audio and video recordings. The Ombudsman considers that public access to these recordings (and any other documents produced during the legislative process) ensures that EU citizens can better understand why legislation is adopted, can take part in the debate on the merits of EU legislation, and can hold the EU institutions, and their Member States, to account for the legislative choices they make on behalf of citizens.

The Ombudsman does not agree that public access would undermine the Commission’s decision-making. Rather, access would strengthen the decision-making, by enhancing its legitimacy in the eyes of citizens.

The Ombudsman considers that the Commission’s arguments that access would give rise to an infringement of the data protection rights of national officials (whose voices can be heard on the recordings) lack merit. Refusing access would be justified only if legitimate interests of the officials would outweigh the important public need served by granting access (namely, the need to give greater legitimacy to the legislative process). However, the Commission has not identified any legitimate interests that might be affected by public access to the recording.

The Ombudsman therefore considers that the refusal to grant public access to the recordings was maladministration and makes a recommendation that they should be released.

Decision in case 1611/2019/KR on the Council’s refusal to grant public access to documents relating to the ‘Nord Stream 2’ gas pipeline

Friday | 27 March 2020

The case concerned requests for public access to documents concerning a recommendation made by the Commission to the Council to give the Commission a mandate to negotiate with Russia on the operation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

Nord Stream 2 is a controversial second pipeline, currently under construction, to bring Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany. It is expected to become operational by 2021.

The Council argued that releasing the documents would undermine international relations. The Ombudsman conducted an inquiry and inspected the documents in question. While recognising the strong need for democratic and public scrutiny of this project, the Ombudsman acknowledges that, under EU law, the Council may determine that public access to the documents, at the time of the request, would undermine international relations.

The Ombudsman closed the inquiry by concluding that there was no maladministration by the Council.