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Decision on the European Central Bank’s (ECB) refusal to grant public access to documents concerning contingency and preparedness measures related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (case 1327/2022/SF)

Lundi | 12 septembre 2022

The complainant requested public access to documents concerning contingency and preparedness measures related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The European Central Bank (ECB) refused public access to the two documents it identified, relying on a provision in the Treaties which requires that the proceedings of its Governing Council not be made public. The ECB also invoked several exceptions under its rules on public access to documents, including that full disclosure would undermine the protection of the public interest as regards the financial, monetary or economic policy of the Union and international financial relations.

The Ombudsman inquiry team inspected the documents at issue. Based on this inspection and considering the wide margin of discretion that the ECB enjoys where it considers that the public interest as regards the Union’s international financial relations is at risk, the Ombudsman found that the ECB’s decision to refuse access to one of the requested documents was not manifestly wrong. As regards the other document, the Ombudsman considered that the ECB’s reliance on the confidentiality of the proceedings of the Governing Council meetings, as laid down in the Treaties, was justified.

The Ombudsman closed the inquiry finding no maladministration.

Decision on how the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) dealt with a request for public access to documents it had disclosed following previous access to document requests (case 4/2022/SF)

Vendredi | 09 septembre 2022

The complainant, a journalist, sought public access to all documents that Frontex had disclosed, following requests for public access, in the period from 2016 to 2018, and since November 2020 until the day of his request in December 2021. He also sought access to the requests made.

Frontex considered the request voluminous and suggested to the complainant that he split the request into several individual applications to be dealt with consecutively. The complainant refused and turned to the Ombudsman.

In the course of the inquiry the complainant limited his request to the documents already disclosed, which Frontex transmitted to him, albeit with some delay. Therefore, and although the Ombudsman is not convinced that Frontex’s treatment of the request was in line with the standards that citizens are entitled to expect from EU authorities, she decided to close the case. However, she asked Frontex to report to her on how in the future, it will make available in its public register documents that have been disclosed following public access requests.