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Showing 1 - 20 of 272 results

Decision in case 989/2020/AMF on the European Commission's handling of two infringement complaints concerning fishing practices in the Netherlands

Monday | 25 January 2021

The case concerned the Commission´s handling of two infringement complaints against the Netherlands in relation to the use of electrical pulse current by fishing vessels with beam trawls. The complainant’s main concern is that pulse fishing poses a systemic threat to the survival of marine ecosystems and the coastal communities that depend on them.

The Commission explained to the complainant why it considered that there was no infringement of EU law and informed it of its intention to close the cases.

The Commission enjoys a wide margin of discretion in deciding whether to open an infringement procedure against a Member State. While the Ombudsman acknowledged the importance of the matter raised by the complainant, she found that there was no maladministration in how the Commission had explained its actions in this case. As the Commission had also justified the delay in providing certain explanations to the complainant, the Ombudsman found no grounds to justify further inquiries into this aspect of the case.

Decision in case 906/2020/VB on a request made by the European Commission to the members of the EU Expert Group on the Birds and Habitats Directive (NADEG) concerning a proposed restriction on lead gunshot in wetland areas

Thursday | 17 December 2020

The case concerned an information paper sent by the European Commission to the members of the Expert Group on the Birds and Habitats Directives (NADEG). In the paper, the Commission asked NADEG members to contact their national authorities to raise awareness about and encourage them to vote in favour of a draft Commission Regulation, which included new restrictions on lead gunshot in wetland areas.

The complainant, an MEP, contended that, in making this request, the Commission was acting beyond its mandate by seeking to influence, through the members of NADEG, a vote on a draft implementing act.

The Ombudsman notes that the Commission has a legitimate interest in seeing its regulatory proposals approved. That having been said, she considers that, in this case, the Commission’s request went beyond what is appropriate to promote its legitimate interest.

The Ombudsman has no evidence that this is a standard Commission practice. As such, and given that the relevant vote has taken place, the Ombudsman finds it sufficient to make the Commission aware of her views on the matter and that no further inquiries are justified.

Decision in case 1944/2020/TE on how the European Commission and the European Chemicals Agency set up the EU Database for Information on Substances of Concern In Articles (SCIP database)

Thursday | 03 December 2020

The case concerned the establishment of a new EU database for information on Substances of Concern In Articles (SCIP database) under the EU legislation on waste. The complainant, a European trade association, considered that the set of mandatory information to be provided by suppliers of articles to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) goes beyond what is required in the EU legislation on chemicals.

The complaint concerns the interpretation of several provisions in EU legislation on waste and chemicals. In the Ombudsman’s view, the Commission and ECHA have adopted a reasonable interpretation of the relevant provisions. While the complainant’s interpretation is different, this is not sufficient to suggest that the interpretation of the Commission and ECHA is wrong. It is for a Court to determine the correct interpretation in the event of a dispute. The Ombudsman therefore found no maladministration and closed the case.

Decision in joint cases 1570/2018/JF-JN and 1973/2018/JF-JN on how the European Commission approves substances used in plant protection products (pesticides)

Monday | 30 November 2020

This inquiry concerned how the European Commission approves ‘active substances’ used in pesticides. In particular, the Ombudsman looked into the Commission´s practice of approving active substances for which the European Food Safety Authority (‘EFSA’) - the EU body in charge of the scientific safety assessment - said that it identified critical areas of concern or that it identified no safe use. The Ombudsman also revisited the Commission´s practice of approving substances for which additional data confirming their safety is needed.

The Ombudsman set out in detail to the Commission why she considers that its current practices raise concerns. While the Commission maintained that its practices comply with the applicable legal provisions, it listed changes and improvements it has made to address the issues raised. Specifically, it informed the Ombudsman of several measures that should improve the approval process and increase its transparency.

The Ombudsman is now closing this inquiry with three suggestions to the Commission to ensure that it approves substances based only on uses that have been confirmed to be safe by EFSA, that the approval process is fully transparent and that its use of the confirmatory data procedure is further restricted. Bearing in mind the commitment by the Von der Leyen Commission to take action to reduce by 50% the overall use of – and risk from – chemical pesticides by 2030, the Ombudsman expects that the Commission will follow up satisfactorily on her suggestions.

Decision of the European Ombudsman in joint inquiry 853/2020/KR on the European Commission’s decision to award a contract to BlackRock Investment Management to carry out a study on integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives into EU banking rules

Monday | 23 November 2020

The case concerns the European Commission's decision to award to BlackRock Investment Management a contract to carry out a study on integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) objectives into EU banking rules. The Ombudsman opened an inquiry after receiving complaints from MEPs and a coalition of civil society organisations. The inquiry assessed how the Commission evaluated the company’s offer in the context of the call for tenders for carrying out the study.

The Ombudsman found that the company’s offer gave rise to concerns. First, if a bidder has a direct or indirect financial interest in developments in a market, because it invests in that market, or manages investments in that market, there is a clear risk that those interests may influence the outcome of its work in its own favour. This applies to the company in question. Second, because of the weighting applied by the Commission in its evaluation, the low price the company offered optimised its chances of securing the contract. Winning the contract may enable the company to gain insights and assert influence over a growing investment area of major and increasing relevance to its clients and therefore to the company itself.

The Ombudsman agrees that there are legitimate concerns around the risk of conflicts of interest that could negatively impact the performance of the contract as the company manifestly has an interest in the development of future EU regulation that will impact on itself and on its clients. She concluded that the Commission should have been more rigorous, and brought a wider perspective to bear, as it moved to verify, in compliance with the rules, that the company was not subject to a conflict of interest that may negatively affect the company’s ability to execute the contract. However, not doing so does not meet the threshold of maladministration, given the limitations of EU rules on awarding contracts in such situations on the Commission staff awarding the contract.

The Ombudsman suggests that the Commission updates its guidelines for public procurement procedures for policy-related service contracts, giving clarity to staff as to when to exclude bidders due to conflicts of interest that may negatively affect the performance of the contract. The Ombudsman also suggests the Commission reflect on whether a specific update to the applicable rules is also required to make them more relevant to the EU’s current policy ambitions. The EU is planning a period of unprecedented levels of spending and investment, which will necessarily involve significant linkages with the private sector.

This Decision will also be forwarded to EU legislators. It is a matter for the legislators to agree the legal underpinning of the ‘green transition’ including the appropriate manner in which its development and rollout is influenced.