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Showing 1 - 20 of 352 results

Decision in case 2110/2018/DDJ on the European Commission’s decision to recover money from a company in an EU-financed project

Monday | 17 May 2021

The complainant participated in an EU-funded project on cross-border e-health services and received money from the European Commission. An external audit found that almost all of the staff costs claimed by the complainant were ineligible. The Commission therefore decided to recover the money paid.

The Ombudsman opened an inquiry and found that the Commission was right concerning the major part of its claim. However, regarding a substantial part of the claim, the auditors had imposed a standard of proof in relation to the staff costs that was much more demanding than that provided for in the applicable rules.

The Ombudsman therefore proposed a solution that the Commission should consider waiving its reimbursement claim regarding those staff costs.

The Commission did not agree to the proposed solution. The Ombudsman closed the inquiry by concluding that further inquiries would not result in a more satisfactory outcome.

Decision in joint cases 85/2021/MIG and 86/2021/MIG on the European Commission’s refusal to give public access to documents concerning the purchase of vaccines against COVID-19

Wednesday | 12 May 2021

The complainant sought public access to the 'advance purchase agreements' (APAs) concluded between the European Commission and pharmaceutical companies for the future purchase of COVID-19 vaccines and to other documents related to those negotiations. The Commission identified one agreement as falling under the scope of the first request and refused access, and also failed to take a decision within the prescribed time limits on the request related to the negotiations.

In the context of the inquiry, the Commission told the Ombudsman that it is taking steps to ensure the greatest transparency possible regarding the vaccine negotiations, and that it was consulting with the pharmaceutical companies concerned with a view to disclosing all APAs. The Commission also provided the complainant with a list of 365 additional documents it had identified as falling within the scope of the requests. It promised that it would publish these documents, to the greatest extent possible, once it had finalised assessing each document or category of documents.

Given the Commission’s efforts towards greater transparency around the vaccine negotiations, and the fact that the Commission has now published redacted versions of all APAs it has concluded thus far, the Ombudsman closed the inquiry. However, the Ombudsman urges the Commission to keep the complainant informed about the publication of any additional documents. The Ombudsman also renewed her call for the Commission to ensure transparency requirements form part of ongoing and future vaccine negotiations, given the important public interests at stake.

Decision in case 175/2021/DL on how the European Commission ensures transparency in relation to the team responsible for negotiating ‘advanced purchase agreements’ with pharmaceutical companies for vaccines against COVID-19

Monday | 22 March 2021

The case concerned the European Commission’s refusal to disclose the names of the team of experts that is involved in negotiating agreements, on behalf of the EU Member States, with pharmaceutical companies for the purchase of vaccines against COVID-19.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission’s refusal to disclose the names was in line with EU data protection legislation and therefore closed the inquiry finding no maladministration.

However, she expressed regret that the Commission refused to disclose any information whatsoever concerning the experts, such as to which national administration they belong. Greater transparency about the negotiation team would help ensure true accountability about the negotiating process for COVID-19 vaccines.

She thus strongly suggests to the Commission that at least the list of seven Member States represented in the negotiating team be now published.

Decision in case 1525/2020/MIG on how the European Commission dealt with a request for public access to documents concerning meetings between its President and industry representatives, including of a company developing a vaccine against COVID-19

Friday | 19 March 2021

The case concerned a request for public access to all documents related to five videoconferences the European Commission President held with industry representatives in spring 2020, including a meeting with a biopharmaceutical company developing a vaccine against COVID-19. The complainant was concerned that the Commission had not identified all documents falling under his request, and that it had granted him access to only part of one of the twelve documents it identified, namely a presentation by the biopharmaceutical company concerned.

In the context of Ombudsman's inquiry, the Commission identified three additional documents to which it granted wide access. While the Ombudsman expressed regret that the Commission had not originally identified these documents as falling under the complainant’s request, she now considers this matter to be settled.

Having inspected the presentation at issue, the Ombudsman considered that there is an overriding public interest in disclosure and proposed, as a solution, that the Commission grant wider public access. The Commission did not accept this solution, maintaining that the relevant information was commercially sensitive, the company concerned objected to its disclosure and there was no overriding public interest.

The Ombudsman expressed regret at the Commission’s decision. She acknowledged, however, that the Commission was unlikely to disclose the information in the face of the company’s objection. She also acknowledged that the Commission has since made greater efforts towards providing information on the negotiations with vaccines manufacturers. The Ombudsman closed the case, urging the Commission to see to it that transparency requirements form part of ongoing and future negotiations with companies where important public interests are at stake.

Decision in case 253/2021/MIG on the time taken by the European Commission to deal with a request for public access to a document concerning the transport of breeding cattle to non-EU countries

Friday | 19 March 2021

The case concerned a request for public access to a list containing information, originating from Member State authorities, on the transport of live cattle from Germany to countries outside the EU. The European Commission decided to extend the time limit of 15 working days for its reply to the request, which the complainant deemed not to be justified.

The Ombudsman found that it was reasonable for the Commission to consider the case to be ‘exceptional’ due to a parallel ongoing procedure on a similar request from the complainant. In that case, the Commission was about to overrule the German authorities’ objections to disclosing a document, and wanted to wait to find out if the German authorities would challenge that decision in court. The Commission was also waiting for comments from the German authorities on the request in this case. The Ombudsman therefore concluded that the Commission was justified in extending the time limit for its reply.

However, the Ombudsman also found that the Commission should have provided the complainant with more information to explain why it extended the time limit. While she refrained from making a formal finding of maladministration, the Ombudsman closed the inquiry urging the Commission to reply to the complainant’s access request without further delay.