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Decision in case 311/2021/TE on the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency's refusal to grant public access to a cost-benefit analysis concerning the Brenner tunnel project

Miércoles | 02 junio 2021

The case concerned the Innovation and Networks Executive Agency's (INEA) refusal to grant public access to a cost-benefit analysis of the Brenner tunnel project. INEA took the view that the document’s disclosure would harm the commercial interests of the company implementing the project.

The Ombudsman’s inquiry team inspected the requested document and found that, while it is reasonable to consider that the disclosure of some information contained in the cost-benefit analysis could undermine the commercial interests of the company, the document also contains information that cannot reasonably be understood to be commercially sensitive. The Ombudsman therefore proposed to INEA to review its position on the complainant’s request, with a view to granting the widest possible public access.

In its reply, the European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA), which succeeded and replaced INEA on 1 April 2021, agreed to grant partial public access to the cost-benefit analysis in question. The Ombudsman considered the redactions reasonable and closed the case on the grounds that her solution proposal had been accepted.

Decision in case 1564/2020/TE on the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority’s refusal to grant public access to the votes and debates of its Board of Supervisors on draft regulatory technical standards

Martes | 18 mayo 2021

The case concerned the refusal of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) to grant public access to the voting results and related reasoning concerning its Board of Supervisors’ decision on a draft regulatory technical standard on packaged retail and insurance-based investment products.

The Ombudsman inquired into the matter and came to the preliminary assessment that draft regulatory technical standards, as adopted by EIOPA’s Board of Supervisors, and any documents related to their adoption, constitute important elements of the process for the adoption of the ensuing delegated act by the European Commission. In this context, the Ombudsman was not convinced by the arguments put forward by EIOPA to refuse public access and she took the preliminary view that EIOPA should release the requested information.

EIOPA positively replied to the Ombudsman’s preliminary assessment. EIOPA committed to disclosing the requested information and to ensuring that future minutes of its Board of Supervisors contain appropriate information on Board members’ votes concerning decisions on legislative documents. The Ombudsman welcomed EIOPA’s reply and the steps taken, and closed the inquiry.

Decision in joint cases 85/2021/MIG and 86/2021/MIG on the European Commission’s refusal to give public access to documents concerning the purchase of vaccines against COVID-19

Miércoles | 12 mayo 2021

The complainant sought public access to the 'advance purchase agreements' (APAs) concluded between the European Commission and pharmaceutical companies for the future purchase of COVID-19 vaccines and to other documents related to those negotiations. The Commission identified one agreement as falling under the scope of the first request and refused access, and also failed to take a decision within the prescribed time limits on the request related to the negotiations.

In the context of the inquiry, the Commission told the Ombudsman that it is taking steps to ensure the greatest transparency possible regarding the vaccine negotiations, and that it was consulting with the pharmaceutical companies concerned with a view to disclosing all APAs. The Commission also provided the complainant with a list of 365 additional documents it had identified as falling within the scope of the requests. It promised that it would publish these documents, to the greatest extent possible, once it had finalised assessing each document or category of documents.

Given the Commission’s efforts towards greater transparency around the vaccine negotiations, and the fact that the Commission has now published redacted versions of all APAs it has concluded thus far, the Ombudsman closed the inquiry. However, the Ombudsman urges the Commission to keep the complainant informed about the publication of any additional documents. The Ombudsman also renewed her call for the Commission to ensure transparency requirements form part of ongoing and future vaccine negotiations, given the important public interests at stake.

Decision in case 439/2021/OAM on the European Commission's refusal to give public access to documents concerning an EU pilot procedure related to a possible infringement of the Habitats Directive by Czechia

Martes | 04 mayo 2021

The case concerned the Commission’s refusal to give access to documents related to an EU pilot procedure concerning Czechia’s compliance with a number of provisions under the Habitats Directive.

After receiving confirmation from the Commission that the EU pilot procedure was ongoing, the Ombudsman found that the decision not to disclose the respective documents was in line with the applicable rules on public access to documents.

The Ombudsman thus concluded that there was no maladministration on the part of the Commission and closed the case.