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Decision on the European Defence Agency's (EDA) refusal to give public access to the minutes of meetings of its 'expert groups' (case 1272/2022/KR)

Lunes | 30 enero 2023

The case concerned a request from a journalist for public access to the minutes of meetings of the working bodies of the EDA. These minutes relate to discussions and exchanges on defence and military matters between technical experts from participating Member States and, in certain cases, experts from defence and security industry groups.

The EDA considered that the request related to a substantial amount of documents (over 9000 pages of documents). The EDA refused access to the documents in question, based on the view that various exceptions applied that are provided in EU legislation on public access to documents.

The EDA also informed the complainant that it makes public general information about the activities of its working bodies, with the aim to provide transparency and ensure accountability.

During the inquiry, the Ombudsman inquiry team inspected a sample of the documents in question, given the substantial amount of documentation concerned. The inspection confirmed that the exceptions to public access that were invoked apply to this sample.

While the Ombudsman therefore found no maladministration, she made the following suggestion for improvement: when dealing with public access requests involving a large volume of documents in scope, the EDA should seek to find a fair solution with applicants. Where, as part of a fair solution, the EDA proposes to rely on a sample of the documents requested, it should clearly communicate and explain this to applicants, provide an overview of the documents requested and propose either that the EDA chooses a representative sample or that applicants choose a reasonable sample.

Decision on how the European External Action Service (EEAS) dealt with the working relationship with an external expert who was employed through a contractor (case 147/2022/KT)

Martes | 13 diciembre 2022

The complainant, who used to work as an external IT expert for the European External Action Service (EEAS) through a contractor, was concerned that the EEAS had shown no flexibility and understanding with regard to his personal circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic. He took issue with how the EEAS had dealt with his request to work remotely (or ‘telework’) outside his place of work, as well as with how it had informed him about the imminent termination of his employment contract.  

The Ombudsman found nothing to suggest that the EEAS had improperly managed the working relationship with the complainant. However, the Ombudsman found that how the EEAS had informed the complainant that it had asked for him to be replaced amounted to maladministration.

Given the circumstances of the case, the Ombudsman considered that a recommendation would serve no useful purpose and closed the inquiry by making suggestions for improvement to the EEAS.

Decision on how the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) dealt with a complaint about alleged irregularities in two selection procedures for contract staff (RCT-2017-00048 and Frontex/17/CA/FGIII/26.1) (case 174/2021/KT)

Miércoles | 30 noviembre 2022

The complainant took part in two selection procedures for contract staff, organised by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) in 2018 and 2019. He was dissatisfied with how Frontex dealt with his administrative complaint about the evaluation of his application in the 2018 selection procedure, in which he was unsuccessful. He also complained that Frontex had failed to reply to his request for feedback regarding the 2019 selection procedure.

In the course of the inquiry, Frontex provided the complainant with feedback regarding the 2019 selection procedure. As regards the 2018 selection procedure, the Ombudsman found nothing to suggest a manifest error in how Frontex had assessed the complainant’s application. However, the Ombudsman considered that Frontex had not dealt with the complainant’s administrative complaint in an entirely satisfactory manner.

Given that the inquiry revealed no manifest error of assessment, the Ombudsman considered that no additional inquiries would be justified into that aspect of the complaint. The Ombudsman suggested, however, that Frontex improve how it communicates to applicants the redress possibilities in the context of its staff selection procedures, as well as how it processes and keeps records of complaints by unsuccessful applicants.

Decisión sobre la negativa del Servicio Europeo de Acción Exterior (SEAE) a conceder acceso público a un documento relativo a la suspensión de partidos políticos en Ucrania (asunto 952/2022/MIG)

Jueves | 18 agosto 2022

El asunto se refería a una solicitud de acceso público a documentos relativos a la reciente suspensión de once partidos políticos en Ucrania. El Servicio Europeo de Acción Exterior (SEAE) reconoció dos documentos como incluidos dentro del ámbito de aplicación de la solicitud del reclamante. Concedió acceso a partes de un documento y se negó a conceder acceso al otro documento. Al proceder así, se acogió a las excepciones previstas en virtud de la legislación de la UE sobre el acceso público a documentos, alegando que la divulgación de los documentos podría socavar el interés público en lo que atañe a la seguridad pública y las relaciones internacionales. El reclamante consideraba que la divulgación suponía un interés público superior.

El equipo de investigación de la Defensora del Pueblo examinó los documentos y obtuvo explicaciones adicionales y confidenciales del SEAE. Sobre esta base, y habida cuenta del amplio margen de discrecionalidad del que gozan las instituciones de la UE cuando consideran que las cuestiones militares y de defensa y las relaciones internacionales están en peligro, la Defensora del Pueblo consideró que la decisión del SEAE de denegar el acceso no era manifiestamente errónea. Asimismo, dado que el interés público en cuestión no puede ser reemplazado por otro interés público considerado superior, la Defensora del Pueblo concluyó que, aunque el reclamante planteó una cuestión importante, sus argumentos no justificaban la divulgación. La Defensora del Pueblo determinó que estaba justificada la negativa a conceder acceso público al documento solicitado. Por lo tanto, no encontró indicios de mala administración y procedió a archivar el caso.

Decisión relativa a la denegación de acceso, por parte del Centro de Satélites de la Unión Europea, a documentos relativos a la situación en la frontera de Bielorrusia-Polonia (asunto130/2022/SF)

Lunes | 11 julio 2022

El asunto se refería a una solicitud de acceso público a documentos en poder del Centro de Satélites de la Unión Europea (SatCen) relativos a la situación migratoria en la frontera bielorrusa. El SatCen se negó a divulgar los documentos, alegando que esto podría socavar la protección del interés público en materia de defensa y asuntos militares, así como las relaciones internacionales de los Estados miembros de la UE.

La Defensora del Pueblo Europeo determinó que la negativa del SatCen a conceder acceso público a los documentos solicitados estaba justificada. Por consiguiente, archivó el asunto sin haber detectado  mala administración.

La Defensora del Pueblo Europeo acogió con agrado la decisión de SatCen de actualizar sus normas sobre acceso público a documentos y le animó a proseguir su «guía breve para la administración de la UE sobre políticas y prácticas para llevar a efecto al derecho de acceso público a documentos».