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Recommandations

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Recommendation of the European Ombudsman in case 1708/2015/ANA on the European Commission’s refusal to grant public access to documents related to the use of GMOs as food or feed

Lundi | 03 septembre 2018

This case, brought by Greenpeace, concerns the Commission's refusal to grant public access to documents taken into account by the Commission when preparing its proposal to amend EU legislation on the use of GMOs as food or feed.

The Ombudsman inquired into the issue and found that the Commission’s refusal to give full public access to the requested documents is not in line with Regulation 1049/2001.

This constitutes maladministration. The Ombudsman recommends that the Commission give full access to the documents in question.

Recommendation of the European Ombudsman in joint cases 488/2018/KR and 514/2018/KR on the European Commission’s appointment of a new Secretary-General

Mardi | 08 mai 2018

Made in accordance with Article 3(6) of the Statute of the European Ombudsman [1]

Following two complaints to her office, the Ombudsman conducted an inquiry into how Mr Martin Selmayr, the then Head of Cabinet [2] of the President of the European Commission, was appointed Secretary-General of the Commission in February 2018.

The outgoing Secretary-General, Mr Italianer, who had indicated his intention to retire to President Juncker in 2018 when he was first appointed in 2015, was replaced by Mr Selmayr without a competition and without any formal consideration of other candidates. As the vacancy was not published, no other candidates could apply.

This was not unprecedented. However in order to be fully eligible for such a direct reassignment, Mr Selmayr first had to apply to become Deputy Secretary-General. Such a position became vacant in January 2018, shortly after the then Secretary-General had confirmed to the Commission President his decision to retire in March 2018. This information was known at that time only by the President and by Mr Selmayr.

Mr Selmayr and another member of the Cabinet were the only two applicants for Deputy Secretary-General. The other member withdrew before the process was completed. Preparatory steps for appointing Mr Selmayr as Secretary-General were already being taken one day before the formal completion of the selection process for Deputy Secretary-General.

On Wednesday, 21 February 2018, the College of Commissioners approved the appointment of Mr Selmayr first as Deputy Secretary-General and then his reassignment as Secretary-General just minutes later, following the announcement during the meeting that the then Secretary-General would step down in March. The retirement of Mr Italianer had not been on the agenda.

Based on the inspection of Commission documents, the Ombudsman inquiry has identified several issues of concern:

  • Mr Selmayr did not recuse himself in January 2018 from the decision-making that led to the creation of the vacancy, and the approval of the vacancy notice, for the post of Deputy Secretary-General, despite the fact that it is highly likely he knew that he would apply for the post and later did so.
  • At that point Mr Selmayr had to recuse himself from taking part in the Consultative Committee on Appointments (CCA), which interviews and gives an opinion on the merits of candidates. However, contrary to the applicable binding rules, no replacement was appointed.
  • Documentary evidence of the sequencing of events shows that the Deputy Secretary-General appointment procedure was not undertaken to fill that post, but rather to make Mr Selmayr eligible for his immediate reassignment as the new Secretary-General.
  • When valid concerns were raised in relation to how the surprise double-appointments were made, the Commission reacted in an evasive, defensive and legalistic manner, which served further to increase concerns.

The European Parliament debated the issue and passed a resolution in plenary on 18 April 2018. Given the facts of the inquiry, the Ombudsman agrees with its assessment that the affair damaged trust in EU institutions and that the double-appointments “stretched and possibly even overstretched the limits of the law”.

Based on her inquiry, the Ombudsman now recommends that the Commission develop a specific appointment procedure for Secretary-General, separate from the procedure for other senior appointments.

[1] Decision of the European Parliament of 9 March 1994 on the regulations and general conditions governing the performance of Ombudsman's duties (94/262/ECSC, EC, Euratom), OJ 1994 L 113, p. 15.

[2] The French term “Cabinet” is frequently used to describe the private offices of Commissioners.

Recommendation of the European Ombudsman in case 150/2017/JN on the European Commission's failure to carry out a human rights impact assessment before approving the inclusion of a Sector Understanding on Export Credits for Coal-fired Electricity Generation Projects as Annex VI to the OECD Arrangement on Officially Supported Export Credits

Lundi | 27 mars 2017

Made in accordance with Article 3(6) of the Statute of the European Ombudsman[1] This complaint to the European Ombudsman was lodged by ECA Watch - an international coalition of NGOs monitoring the activities of Export Credit Agencies. ECA Watch considered that the European Commission had wrongly decided not to carry out a human rights impact assessment before agreeing to the 2015 Sector Understan...

Recommendation of the European Ombudsman in her strategic inquiry OI/4/2016/EA against the European Commission on whether the treatment of persons with disabilities under the Joint Sickness Insurance Scheme complies with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Lundi | 16 juillet 2018

Made in accordance with Article 3(6) of the Statute of the European Ombudsman[1] EU staff members and their families are covered by a sickness insurance scheme, known as the Joint Sickness Insurance Scheme (‘JSIS’). In October 2015, following a review conducted under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (‘UNCRPD’), the UN Committee recommended that the European Union should...

Recommendation of the European Ombudsman in case 934/2018/RM on the European Commission’s failure to deal with a request for access to briefing documents for the Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources within an acceptable time frame

Jeudi | 31 mai 2018

The case concerned a request for access to briefing documents prepared for meetings of the Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources and his advisors with third parties. The Commission has not taken a decision on the request after more than a year.

In the course of the inquiry, the Commission indicated that it was still not in a position to take a decision. The Ombudsman found that this delay constituted maladministration, and recommended that the Commission take a decision without delay and provide the complainant with a list of all the documents covered by his request.  

Recommendation of the European Ombudsman in case 212/2016/JN on the European Commission’s annual reviewing of Member States’ export credit agencies

Mercredi | 23 mai 2018

The case concerned the adequacy of the European Commission’s annual reviewing of export credit agencies - national bodies that give financial support to companies doing business in ‘risky’ markets - in particular with respect to the protection of human rights and the environment.

The Ombudsman inquired into the matter and found that the Commission’s methodology and procedures could be improved. In particular, she suggested that the Commission should engage in a dialogue with Member States and other stakeholders with a view to improving the template used by Member States in compiling the reports on export credit agencies which they are required to submit to the Commission each year. The Ombudsman also proposed that the Commission, for its part, should enhance the analysis and evaluation content of the annual reviews of export credit agencies which it submits to the European Parliament.

The Commission rejected the Ombudsman’s proposals mainly because it considers that their implementation would require an amendment to the existing legislation. The Ombudsman disagreed with the Commission’s position and has now made recommendations to the Commission in the same terms as those of her earlier proposals.  The Ombudsman believes that the Commission’s annual review, which it sends to Parliament, should amount to more than a compilation of the content of the annual reports received from the Member States and that it should contain an informed and detailed evaluation of the performance of the export credit agencies, particularly, as regards respect for human rights and the environment.

Recommendation of the European Ombudsman in case 366/2017/AMF on the handling of alleged lack of equal opportunities for staff at the European Investment Bank and the functioning of its whistleblowing procedure

Jeudi | 23 mars 2017

Made in accordance with Article 3(6) of the Statute of the European Ombudsman[1] The case concerns the reporting, by a staff member of the European Investment Bank (EIB), of alleged gender discrimination at the EIB, particularly at management level. The report was made under the EIB´s internal whistleblowing policy[2]. On the basis of the inquiry into this complaint, the Ombudsman makes the follow...

Recommendation of the European Ombudsman in case 1336/2017/JAS on the European Commission’s refusal to grant access to its catalogue of nanomaterials used in cosmetics, as well as to related notifications from cosmetics manufacturers

Mardi | 03 octobre 2017

Made in accordance with Article 3(6) of the Statute of the European Ombudsman[1] The case concerned a request for public access to a catalogue of nanomaterials used in cosmetic products and to related notifications made by cosmetics manufacturers. The European Commission, which had not completed the catalogue on time, argued that no such document existed when the complainant, an environmental NGO,...

Recommendations of the European Ombudsman in the joint inquiry into complaints 194/2017/EA, 334/2017/EA, and 543/2017/EA on the European Commission’s handling of post-mandate employment of former Commissioners, a former Commission President and the role of its ‘Ethics Committee’

Lundi | 10 juillet 2017

Recommendations of the European Ombudsman in the joint inquiry into complaints 194/2017/EA, 334/2017/EA, and 543/2017/EA on the European Commission’s handling of post-mandate employment of former Commissioners, a former Commission President and the role of its ‘Ethics Committee’[1] Made in accordance with Article 3(6) of the Statute of the European Ombudsman[2] The European Commission is required ...

Recommendation in case 1311/2016/TM on how the European Aviation Safety Agency dealt with a safety report

Mercredi | 14 février 2018

The case concerned how the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) dealt with a ‘safety report’ submitted by an aircraft maintenance mechanic working at a maintenance base at an airport in the EU. The complainant was unhappy that the EASA had also failed to inform him about the follow-up to his report.  

The Ombudsman found that the EASA had complied with its obligations under the applicable rules, and had investigated the report in an appropriate manner. As a result, she concluded that there was no maladministration concerning this aspect of the complaint.

The complainant’s report was handled under the EASA’s Confidential Safety Reporting (CSR) rules. Under these rules, people making reports are informed that they will not be notified of the follow-up to their report. The Ombudsman notes that ensuring public trust in reporting in the public interest is an essential aspect of good governance. She found that the EASA’s practice, of not providing follow-up information on the reports it receives, constitutes maladministration, as this practice could undermine confidence in the reporting mechanism. The Ombudsman therefore recommends that the EASA revise the CSR procedure to ensure that feedback on the outcome of CSR procedures is given to those making reports to the EASA.

The Ombudsman welcomes the fact that, in the course of her inquiry, the EASA put in place a dedicated online tool for Confidential Safety Reporting, though it does not as of yet provide for the giving of feedback to the person making a report.