You have a complaint against an EU institution or body?

Search inquiries

Date range
Or try old keywords (Before 2016)

Showing 1 - 20 of 37 results

Decision on the European Maritime Safety Agency’s (EMSA) refusal to provide full public access to statistics concerning maritime pollution (case 129/2022/OAM)

Thursday | 06 October 2022

The case concerned a public access to documents request concerning certain information obtained though the CleanSeaNet service, a tool operated by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to monitor maritime pollution. The complainant, an investigative journalism platform, was interested in the results of verifications of possible oil spills on the sea surface, in particular the data for the year 2019. EMSA argued that the originators of the data, the national authorities of the coastal states, opposed its release. 

The Ombudsman found that under the EU legislation on public access to documents such an objection could not in itself justify refusing access. The Ombudsman noted that EMSA has published similar data in the past and also pointed out that the requested data constituted environmental information which should benefit from greater transparency.

The Ombudsman therefore proposed that EMSA reassess the request with a view to granting public access. EMSA accepted the solution proposal and has now published on its website extensive information on CleanSeaNet detections of possible oil spills and verification results for the whole period between 2015 and 2021.The Ombudsman welcomes EMSA’s positive response to her solution proposal and closed the case.

Decision on the European Commission's refusal to give public access to documents concerning an audit of pelagic and tuna fisheries in Ireland (case 757/2022/MIG)

Friday | 16 September 2022

The case concerned the refusal of the European Commission to grant the complainant public access to documents concerning a Commission audit and an administrative inquiry by the Irish authorities, which prompted the Commission to revoke the Irish control plan for the weighing of fishery products. The Commission argued that the follow-up to the audit was still ongoing and that disclosing the documents would undermine the protection of the purpose of inspections, investigations and audits.

The Ombudsman verified that the Irish authorities have not yet implemented the recommendations made by the Commission and, thus, have not yet resolved the shortcomings it identified. This means that the follow-up to the audit is still ongoing. Given that the Commission might open infringement proceedings against Ireland if these shortcomings are not sufficiently addressed, the Ombudsman considered it reasonable for the Commission to rely on a general presumption of non-disclosure. The Ombudsman also found that the complainant’s arguments were not such as to establish that there is an overriding public interest in disclosure.

In view of this, the Ombudsman concluded that the Commission’s refusal to give public access to the documents at issue was justified and closed her inquiry finding no maladministration.

Decision on the European Commission’s failure to take a final decision on a request for public access to documents concerning an audit on an external fleet (case 5/2022/DL)

Thursday | 21 April 2022

The case concerned the European Commission’s failure to reply in time to a request for public access to documents concerning an audit on an external Italian fleet.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission had failed to respect the deadlines set in the EU legislation on public access to documents. She considered that the Commission’s performance in this case fell short of meeting the standards of a modern, citizen-friendly and transparent administration. However, since the Commission adopted a final decision in the course of the inquiry and as the Ombudsman is now examining, from a systemic perspective, the time taken by the Commission to deal with requests for public access to documents, she considered that no further inquiries were justified. She thus closed the inquiry.

Decision in case 640/2019/TE on the transparency of the Council of the EU’s decision-making process leading to the adoption of annual regulations setting fishing quotas

Wednesday | 29 April 2020

The complaint concerned the transparency of the decision-making process in the Council of the EU, leading to the adoption of the annual regulations setting total allowable catches (TACs) of certain fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic for 2017, 2018 and 2019. The complaint was submitted by the environmental law organisation ClientEarth.

The complainant was concerned that the Council (1) failed to record the positions of Member States expressed in Council ‘preparatory bodies’ of national civil servants and Ambassadors, as well as in meetings of the Council of Ministers, (2) failed to provide timely access to legislative documents, proactively and upon request, and (3) has in place an incomplete register of documents that is difficult to use.

The Ombudsman took the view that the documents in question are ‘legislative documents’, as defined in the EU rules on public access to documents. In addition, the documents contain ‘environmental information’ within the meaning of the Aarhus Regulation. Wider and more timely access should be granted to such documents. The Ombudsman also found that the Council had not demonstrated that disclosing the documents would seriously affect, prolong or complicate the decision-making process.

The Ombudsman therefore recommended that the Council should proactively make available documents related to the adoption of the TAC Regulation at the time they are circulated to Member States or as soon as possible thereafter.

The Council has chosen not to follow the Ombudsman’s recommendation. This is disappointing. Furthermore, it suggests the Council has failed fully to grasp the critical link between democracy and the transparency of decision-making regarding matters that have a significant impact on the wider public. This is all the more important when the decision-making relates to the protection of the environment.

The Council’s position appears to be that a key democratic standard - legislative transparency - must be sacrificed for what it considers to be the greater good of achieving a consensus on a political issue.

The Ombudsman confirms her finding of maladministration and her recommendation.