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Showing 1 - 20 of 325 results

Decision on how the European Commission involved stakeholders and managed conflicts of interest in reviewing the protection goals for assessing environmental risks of pesticides (case 1402/2020/TE)

Monday | 08 November 2021

The case concerned an ongoing review by the European Commission of the criteria for assessing environmental risks in pesticides, the ‘specific protection goals’. The complainant, an environmental organisation, was concerned with the method being proposed and alleged that there are conflicts of interest with the experts involved in devising this method.

The Ombudsman opened an inquiry into one aspect of the complaint, which concerned the Commission’s selection of an expert in a stakeholder workshop that took place at the beginning of the review in September 2019. The Ombudsman noted that the Commission had not asked the expert in question to submit a declaration of interest ahead of this workshop.

The Ombudsman took the view that the Commission should have required the expert to submit a declaration of interest. This is because of the nature of the workshop, which concerned the implementation of EU legislation in a controversial area, the role of the expert therein and the fact that the expert was presented as being independent. The disclosure of any interests, which could give rise to a conflict of interest, is essential to ensure public trust in the policies that result from such processes and the legitimacy of such policies in the eyes of the public.

As the Commission asked the expert to submit a declaration of interest in the meantime, the Ombudsman does not see the need to pursue the matter further. Having said that, the Ombudsman expects that the Commission will require, assess and publish declarations of interest of experts invited in their personal capacity to similar future events, and she is making a suggestion to that effect.

The Ombudsman also examined the complainant’s claims regarding the substance of the declaration of interest, namely that it was incomplete and that the Commission did not assess it in order to identify any conflicts of interest. The Ombudsman found the Commission’s assessment to be reasonable. She thus closed the inquiry.

Decision on the Council of the EU’s refusal to provide full public access to documents related to trilogue negotiations on motor vehicle emissions (case 360/2021/TE)

Monday | 11 October 2021

The case concerned the Council of the EU’s refusal to grant full public access to documents relating to trilogue negotiations between the Council, the European Parliament, and the European Commission on draft legislation for vehicle emissions. The Council granted access to only parts of the documents it identified as falling under the request, arguing that disclosing the remaining parts could undermine the ongoing decision-making process.

The inspection of the documents by the Ombudsman’s inquiry team showed that the redacted parts contain the Council’s strategy for the negotiations with Parliament. These redacted parts had not been shared with Parliament at the time the Council refused access to the complainant.

The Ombudsman acknowledged that releasing this when the negotiations were ongoing could seriously undermine the Council’s negotiating position. As such, the redactions were justified in that context. However, she took the view that, once compromises on these issues had been reached in the trilogue negotiations, the relevant parts of the documents should be disclosed.

In the course of the inquiry, the Council identified three additional documents that it had shared with Parliament ahead of trilogue meetings. The Ombudsman took the view that they constitute important legislative documents, and that disclosing them would enable the public to properly follow the trilogue negotiations and to try to influence the legislative process at this crucial stage. The Ombudsman thus proposed to the Council that it should disclose these three documents. The Council accepted the proposal.

The complainant expressed his dissatisfaction with the outcome, notably as regards the Ombudsman’s assessment upholding the Council’s decision not to disclose certain parts of the documents while the negotiations were ongoing. The Ombudsman thus closed the inquiry, confirming her assessment and setting out in greater detail the conclusions she had reached.