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Decision on how the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) dealt with a request for public access to documents related to a proposal to restrict lead in ammunition (case 2124/2021/MIG)

Monday | 14 November 2022

The case concerned a request for public access to documents held by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concerning lead in ammunition. EFSA took more than seven months to deal with the request, extending the deadline on various occasions, which prevented the complainant from using the documents in preparing a contribution to a public consultation organised by another EU agency.

The Ombudsman opened an inquiry and found maladministration in how EFSA had dealt with the complainant’s access request and, specifically, its failure to comply with the time limits set out in the EU legislation on public access to documents. She recommended that EFSA should cease its practice of extending the prescribed time limits beyond 30 working days when proposing a ‘fair solution’. She also recommended that EFSA should provide applicants at an early stage with a list of the documents it identifies where an access request is formulated in broad terms. 

EFSA replied positively to the Ombudsman’s recommendations, committing itself to changing its rules and practices to ensure that requests for public access to documents are processed swiftly. The Ombudsman closed the inquiry, welcoming EFSA’s positive response and the steps it has already taken and intends to take to implement her recommendations.

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.