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Decision in case 773/2018/PL on how the European Union Aviation Safety Agency conducted a consultation on drones

Friday | 29 November 2019

The case concerned the way in which the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) carried out a public consultation. The Ombudsman’s inquiry covered (i) the fact that the consultation was in English only, (ii) EASA’s web-based application to submit comments and (iii) the amount of time stakeholders had to submit comments.

The Ombudsman concluded that citizens who do not speak English were hindered from contributing meaningfully to the consultation. She therefore made a suggestion to EASA to review its practice.

At the same time, the Ombudsman found EASA’s system for submitting comments to be reasonably user-friendly and the amount of time stakeholders had to submit comments to be sufficient. The Ombudsman thus closed the case.

Decision in case 2204/2018/TE on how the European Commission dealt with comments submitted under the notification procedure set up by the EU Single Market Transparency Directive

Thursday | 19 September 2019

The European Commission runs a publicly accessible database, which informs interested parties about national technical regulations communicated to the Commission by EU Member States before their adoption. The database also allows interested parties to submit comments on the proposed national technical regulations.

The complainant is an international technical association for generation and storage of power and heat. It submitted comments on proposed technical rules that Germany intended to introduce.

As the German authorities had requested the Commission to keep information about the measures confidential, only limited information about these measures was accessible via the public database. The complainant took issue with this. The complainant was also concerned about how the Commission dealt with its comments, as it did not receive a substantive reply from the Commission after it made its comments.

The Ombudsman found no maladministration in how the Commission dealt with the complainant’s comments made under the notification procedure. The Ombudsman suggested, however, that the Commission provide clear information in its acknowledgements of receipt and on the database website, as to what interested parties can expect in terms of the Commission’s reply to their comments. Regarding the information that is made available, the Ombudsman expects the Commission carefully to monitor Member States’ use of confidential notifications under the Single Market Transparency Directive and to take the necessary measures in case of suspected abuse of the confidentiality provision.

Decision in case 766/2018/PL on how the European Chemicals Agency conducted a consultation on a proposal to restrict lead in gunshot

Tuesday | 16 July 2019

The case concerns how the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) conducted a consultation of stakeholders on a proposal to restrict lead in gunshot used in wetlands. The complainant took issue with the wording of the questions and the fact that the consultation was available in English only.

The Ombudsman considers that the questions, and the opportunity to send general comments, allowed participants to express their views freely. Regarding languages, however, the Ombudsman found ECHA’s justification for using English only to be inadequate.

The Ombudsman therefore welcomes ECHA’s commitment for the future to consider translating into other languages at least parts of its consultations. Where ECHA restricts the use of languages, it should put in place relevant safeguards such as making available a summary in all EU official languages, making relevant supporting material available in as many languages as possible and, above all, making clear that responses can be submitted in any EU official language. This latter element is a fundamental right.

The Ombudsman closed the case with a suggestion to ECHA to avoid similar problems arising in the future.

Decision in case 649/2019/TE on the Council’s failure to make available a German translation of a press release

Tuesday | 16 July 2019

The complaint concerned the fact that a press release containing remarks made by European Council President Donald Tusk on 6 February 2019 was made available in English, French and Irish only. The remarks were made following a meeting with the Irish Prime Minister.

The complainant had asked the Council to make available a German version of the press release. The Council replied that the press release would eventually be translated into all EU official languages.

The Ombudsman understands that it is the Council’s current practice to make remarks by the European Council President available in all EU official languages only in certain circumstances, for example when speaking after meetings of the European Council. Remarks made by the President following meetings with individual heads of state or government are generally made available either in English only, or in English and French, or in English, French and one additional official language. Thus, contrary to what the complainant was initially told by the Council, the press release in question was not translated into all official languages.

The Ombudsman acknowledges the need to strike an appropriate balance between linguistic diversity and administrative and budgetary constraints when translating documents. She also acknowledges that the EU institutions have some discretion in striking this balance. She considers that it was not manifestly wrong of the Council to make available the press release in question in English, French and Irish. At the same time, she considers that the Council should be transparent and clear about its translation policy and inform citizens accordingly. In this case, it provided misleading information to the complainant. This was regrettable.

Decision in case 1128/2018/TM on the European Commission’s webpages on ‘novel foods’ being available in English only

Thursday | 27 June 2019

The case concerned the European Commission’s webpages on ‘novel foods’, types of food that are produced by new methods or have not previously been consumed by humans on a wider scale. The Commission’s webpages include an online application system for businesses seeking authorisation to market a novel food in the EU. The complainant was concerned that these webpages were available in English only.

In the course of the Ombudsman’s inquiry, the Commission started translating information on the authorisation procedure for novel foods into more EU official languages. The webpages were also revised to include the information that applications may be submitted in any EU language. The Ombudsman found that the Commission had taken steps to solve the complaint and closed the inquiry as settled.