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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)

Lundi | 30 janvier 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 the European Data Protection Supervisor's (EDPS) refusal to give full public access to documents concerning the drafting of its implementing provisions on promotion (1995/2022/OAM)

Vendredi | 16 décembre 2022

The case concerned a request for public access to documents related to the drafting of the European Data Protection Supervisor's (EDPS) implementing provisions on staff promotion. The EDPS gave partial access to some documents, but refused to disclose parts of three documents, which it considered to be covered by the exception for the protection of legal advice. The complainant contested the EDPS’s position. He further claimed that the EDPS did not identify all documents falling within the scope of his request.

The Ombudsman inquiry team inspected the relevant documents. During the inquiry, the EDPS became aware of an error in the redaction of one document partially disclosed at initial stage. It remedied that error and granted the complainant wider partial access to the document in question.

As regards the other documents, the Ombudsman found that the EDPS’s decision to refuse full access was not unreasonable. Given that the documents at issue related to an internal administrative procedure, she did not identify an overriding public interest in disclosure. The Ombudsman also considered that the EDPS properly identified all the documents falling within the scope of the request.

In view of this, the Ombudsman closed the inquiry finding no maladministration.