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Decision on the European External Action Service's refusal to grant public access to documents concerning EU-funded security projects in Mali (case 1366/2021/MIG)

Srijeda | 01 prosinca 2021

The case concerned a request for public access to documents relating to training provided to national security forces in Mali in the framework of an EU mission. The complainant sought access to these documents to verify that no security forces that received EU support had been involved in any violations of human rights.

The European External Action Service (EEAS) identified three documents as falling within the scope of the complainant’s request. It gave access to parts of one document and refused to give access to the other two documents in their entirety. In doing so, it invoked exceptions under the EU’s rules on public access to documents, arguing that disclosing the documents could undermine public security and international relations, and the protection of personal data.

The Ombudsman’s inquiry team inspected the documents and obtained additional, confidential explanations from the EEAS. Based on this and considering the wide margin of discretion that EU institutions enjoy where they consider that public security and international relations are at risk, the Ombudsman found that the EEAS’s decision to refuse access was not manifestly wrong. In addition, given that the public interest at stake cannot be superseded by another public interest that is deemed more important, the Ombudsman found that, whilst the complainant raised an important issue, his arguments were not such as to justify disclosure. The Ombudsman therefore closed the case finding no maladministration.

Recommendation on how the European Defence Agency handled the applications of its former Chief Executive to take on senior positions at Airbus (OI/3/2021/KR)

Utorak | 13 srpnja 2021

The Ombudsman conducted an inquiry on her own initiative into the decision of the European Defence Authority (EDA) to allow its former Chief Executive to take up two senior positions with Airbus, an aerospace company.

The Ombudsman’s inquiry also looked into how the EDA dealt with the fact that the former Chief Executive took up his new positions before the EDA had authorised him to do so, which is a breach of the EDA’s Staff Regulations.

The Ombudsman found that the conditions imposed on the former Chief Executive by the EDA in its authorising decision were insufficient when measured against the risks, and could not be monitored and enforced. There were also shortcomings in how the EDA assessed the risk of conflicts of interest.

The EDA should have instead applied stronger conditions and forbidden the former Chief Executive from taking up the position which gave rise to the greatest risk of conflict with the EDA’s legitimate interest. Not doing so amounted to maladministration by the EDA.

Based on these findings, the Ombudsman issued two recommendations:

(i) In future, the EDA should forbid its senior staff from taking up positions after their term of office where a clear conflict of interest arises with the legitimate interests of the EDA;

(ii) The EDA should set out the criteria for forbidding such moves, in order to give clarity to senior staff. Applicants for senior EDA posts should be informed of the criteria when they apply.