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Decision on how the European Investment Bank (EIB) handled the move of a former Vice-President to an energy utility company that had received EIB loans (1016/2021/KR)

Wednesday | 27 July 2022

The case concerned the decision of the European Investment Bank to approve a request made by a former vice-president and member of its Management Committee (MC) (the ‘former VP’) to become a non-executive board member of a Spanish energy utility company, which received loans from the EIB.

The complainants, two Members of the European Parliament, raised concerns that the move gave rise to the risk of conflicts of interest. The EIB argued that the former VP had not been involved in the negotiation and implementation of the financing agreements between the EIB and the company.

The Ombudsman found that, in approving the move, the EIB did not properly manage the risk of conflicts of interest to which the former VP’s request arguably gave rise. However, given the EIB has, in the meantime, made improvements to the relevant ethics rules to address these matters, the Ombudsman determined that no further inquiries were justified.

Nonetheless, the Ombudsman made suggestions for improvement with a view to strengthening how the EIB assesses ‘revolving door’ moves by members of its MC to the private sector, and how it ensures compliance where its Ethics and Compliance Committee authorises a move but applies conditions on the individual and their activities.

Decision on the European Commission’s role in assessing the sustainability of gas projects on the list of 'projects of regional significance' of the 'Energy Community' (327/2021/KR)

Friday | 15 July 2022

 The complainant, a civil society organisation, raised concerns about the sustainability assessment of gas projects in the Energy Community, an international organisation for cooperation on energy between the EU and countries in the Western Balkans and in the Black Sea region. Such projects may benefit from streamlined permitting procedures and have to comply with the criteria set out in the EU’s Trans-European Networks for Energy (TEN-E) Regulation, as applied also by the Energy Community.

The Energy Community is not an EU body and is thus outside the Ombudsman’s mandate. However, as the European Commission represents the EU in the Energy Community, the Ombudsman asked the Commission to explain how it ensures that the sustainability of gas projects is properly assessed, and its role in the process.

In the context of this inquiry, the Commission also gave an update on its efforts to improve how the sustainability of EU gas ‘projects of common interest’ (PCI) is assessed, which was the subject of a previous Ombudsman inquiry.

The Ombudsman found the Commission’s explanations satisfactory and closed the case with a finding of no maladministration.

Recommendation on how the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) dealt with a request for public access to documents related to a proposal to restrict lead in ammunition (case 2124/2021/MIG)

Monday | 02 May 2022

The case concerns a request for public access to documents held by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concerning lead in ammunition. EFSA took more than seven months to deal with the request, extending the deadline on various occasions. The complainant was dissatisfied with the time taken by EFSA to deal with the request, arguing that EFSA had not given adequate explanations for the delay and that the delay meant it could not participate meaningfully in a related public consultation.

The Ombudsman found maladministration in how EFSA had dealt with the complainant’s access request and, specifically, its failure to comply with the time limits set out in the EU legislation on public access to documents. The Ombudsman makes two recommendations aimed at improving how EFSA deals with requests for public access to documents.