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Showing 1 - 20 of 83 results

Decision on the Council of the European Union’s refusal to give full public access to a legal opinion related to the EU trade agreement with the United Kingdom (case 717/2021/SF)

Friday | 17 June 2022

The case concerned the refusal by the Council of the European Union to disclose in full an opinion of its Legal Service on the nature of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement concluded between the United Kingdom and the EU. The Council argued that full disclosure would harm the EU’s international relations, legal advice and the ongoing decision-making process.

The Ombudsman found that the information contained in the opinion was not sensitive and that the Council’s arguments were not convincing. The Ombudsman therefore proposed as a solution that the Council grant the widest possible access to the opinion.

The Council did not accept this solution proposal. The Ombudsman concluded that the Council’s refusal to grant wide public access to the opinion constituted maladministration and made a corresponding recommendation.

The Council rejected the Ombudsman’s recommendation. The Ombudsman therefore closes the case, confirming her finding of maladministration.

Recommendation on the Council of the European Union’s refusal to give full public access to a legal opinion related to the EU trade agreement with the United Kingdom (case 717/2021/DL)

Thursday | 24 February 2022

The complainant sought public access to an opinion of the Legal Service of the Council of the European Union on the legal nature of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement concluded between the United Kingdom and the EU.

The Council provided only very limited access to the opinion, arguing that full disclosure would harm its international relations, legal advice and the ongoing decision-making process.

The Ombudsman considered that the information contained in the opinion was not sensitive. She found that the Council had not demonstrated how disclosure would specifically and actually undermine the public interest concerning international relations. She also found that it was unclear how disclosure would undermine the Council’s capacity to obtain frank, objective and comprehensive advice. Rather, the Ombudsman took the view that greater transparency would reinforce the legitimacy of the Agreement.

The Ombudsman proposed as a solution that the Council grant the widest possible access to the opinion of its Legal Service. The Council did not follow this solution proposal.

As the Council did not rebut or address the arguments in the Ombudsman’s proposal for a solution, the Ombudsman maintains her position. She considers that the Council’s refusal to grant wide public access to the opinion constitutes maladministration and made a corresponding recommendation to address this.

Decision on the European Parliament’s refusal to give public access to documents related to the ‘EU-China Friendship Group’ (case 1542/2021/SF)

Friday | 28 January 2022

The case concerned a request for access to four documents relating to the ‘EU-China Friendship Group’, an unofficial grouping of MEPs.

The President of the European Parliament had asked Parliament’s Advisory Committee on the Conduct of Members to assess whether the chair of the Group had complied with his obligation to declare any support received in relation to the Group’s activity. The four documents were part of the procedure before that Committee.

Parliament refused access to the four documents, referring in essence to the confidentiality of the procedure before the Advisory Committee.

The Ombudsman’s inquiry team examined the four documents and met with the relevant staff of Parliament to obtain further information on its decision to refuse access. The Ombudsman found that Parliament’s decision to refuse access was reasonable, given the relevant case law.

The prospect of public disclosure of documents, such as those at issue in this case, would risk depriving the Advisory Committee of necessary information in the context of its investigations. Moreover, disclosure in this case would result in little or no additional substantive information about the matter being made available. The Ombudsman therefore closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision on the European Commission’s refusal to grant access to preparatory documents relating to anti-dumping measures on imports of steel fasteners from China (case 1379/2020/MAS)

Monday | 06 September 2021

The case concerned the refusal of the European Commission to grant public access to preparatory documents relating to anti-dumping measures on imports of steel fasteners from China. The Commission did not identify for the complainant the documents falling within the scope of his request and refused access without individually and specifically examining them. Instead, it invoked a general presumption of confidentiality based on the protection of commercial interests and the purpose of investigations.

The Ombudsman had doubts that a general presumption of confidentiality was applicable in this case, notably given that the documents in question are now more than nine years old. She made a proposal for a solution, asking the Commission to provide the complainant with a list of the documents covered by his request and to examine specifically and individually each of the documents with a view to considering their disclosure.

While the Commission produced a list of the documents in question, it refused to examine specifically and individually the documents covered by the request.

It is settled case-law that the Commission is not obliged to apply a general presumption - it is an option. The Commission could have made use of that option and thereby followed the Ombudsman’s proposal for solution, to deliver greater transparency in this case. As the Commission’s reply to the Ombudsman’s proposal does not indicate any flexibility on this matter, the Ombudsman considers it appropriate to close her inquiry at this stage setting out her findings.

She maintains her doubts that a general presumption of confidentiality was applicable in this case. She hopes the Court will clarify this issue when given the opportunity.