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Showing 1 - 20 of 69 results

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.

Decision in case 1026/2020/MAS concerning the failure by the European Commission to finalise an updated 'sustainability impact assessment' before concluding the EU-Mercosur trade negotiations

Wednesday | 17 March 2021

The case concerned the European Commission’s failure to finalise a ‘sustainability impact assessment’ (SIA) before concluding the negotiations on a trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur, a South American trade bloc.

The complainants contended that, by not finalising the assessment, the Commission disregarded its own guidelines on SIAs and breached EU law. The Commission acknowledged that, in general, it would be preferable for SIAs to be finalised before the conclusion of trade negotiations, but argued that there is no legal requirement to do so.

The Ombudsman took the view that, while it was impossible to foresee the dynamics of the negotiations, the SIA in this case has taken much longer to finalise than anticipated. Specifically, the Commission should have ensured that the SIA was finalised before the conclusion of the EU-Mercosur trade negotiations.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission’s failure to ensure that the SIA was finalised in good time constituted maladministration. Considering that the negotiations have been concluded and that the Commission appears set to finalise the SIA process imminently, she takes the view that it would serve no purpose to make a recommendation. However, she urges the Commission to ensure that, in the future, SIAs are completed prior to the conclusion of trade negotiations.


Decision in case 1991/2019/KR on the European Commission’s action concerning sustainability assessment for gas projects on the current List of Projects of Common Interest

Tuesday | 17 November 2020

The case concerned the inclusion of gas projects on the EU’s 2019 list of Projects of Common Interest (PCIs).These are cross-border energy infrastructure projects that should help achieve EU energy and climate policy objectives. The complainant was concerned that the sustainability of gas projects on that PCI list had not been satisfactorily assessed, as is required.

The Commission had already acknowledged that the sustainability assessment of candidate gas projects had been suboptimal due to a lack of data and inadequate methodologies. In the course of the inquiry, the Commission informed the Ombudsman that it is updating the criterion used for assessing the sustainability of projects that are candidates for inclusion on the next PCI list, which it will draw up in 2021.

Among other things, this update is expected to take into account the CO2 and methane balance, as well as efficiency impacts, in the assessment of projects. The indicator is expected to reflect the infrastructure’s expected impact on the overall greenhouse gas intensity of energy production in a given EU Member State and the emissions related to the functioning of the infrastructure itself.

The Ombudsman welcomes the fact that the Commission will ensure that this update is in place before the decision is taken on the next PCI list. The adoption date for the next PCI list is foreseen in the last quarter of 2021.

Given the EU’s objectives concerning climate change and sustainability, it is regrettable that gas projects were included on previous PCI lists, without having their sustainability properly assessed. This meant that it was not possible to rank them to identify the most sustainable ones. However, the Commission is taking the necessary action with the result that no further inquiries of the Ombudsman are justified at this point.