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Recommendation on how the Council of the European Union handled a request for public access to the legal opinion on the proposed EU directive on adequate minimum wages (case 1834/2022/NH)

Martedì | 04 aprile 2023

The case concerned a request for public access to an opinion of the legal service of the Council of the EU on a draft law on adequate minimum wages.

The Council granted the complainant access to parts of the opinion in May 2021. It invoked two exceptions under the EU legislation on public access to documents to justify redacting the remaining parts of the document, arguing that full disclosure could undermine the decision-making process (since negotiations on the law were still ongoing at the time) and the protection of legal advice.

The Ombudsman found that the Council had not demonstrated how disclosure of the document would undermine its decision-making process or its capacity to seek and obtain frank, objective and comprehensive advice. Her view is that greater transparency when the negotiations were still ongoing would have greatly facilitated public participation in the EU’s legislative process.

The Ombudsman therefore considered that the Council’s refusal to grant full public access to the legal opinion at the time of the confirmatory decision constituted maladministration. As the complainant is still interested in receiving full public access to the opinion at this stage, the Ombudsman made a corresponding recommendation.

Decision on the European Commission's refusal to give public access to a proposal and a grant agreement concerning an EU funded project in the defence industry (case 1980/2022/NH)

Martedì | 14 marzo 2023

The case concerned a request for public access to documents concerning technology developed and military equipment produced as part of an EU-funded project in the defence industry. The European Commission refused access to the two documents it identified, arguing that full disclosure could undermine the public interest as regards public security, defence and military matters, the protection of the privacy and the integrity of the individual and the protection of commercial interests.

The Ombudsman inquiry team inspected the documents in question and found that the Commission’s refusal to disclose them was justified due to their sensitive nature.

The Ombudsman closed the inquiry with the conclusion that the Commission had not acted with maladministration in this case.

Decision on the European Commission's refusal to give public access to a dataset containing company names and details held in the Business Registers Interconnection System on the ground that the requested document does not exist (case 926/2022/KR)

Martedì | 28 febbraio 2023

The case concerned a request for public access to a dataset containing company names and details held in the Business Registers Interconnection System (BRIS). BRIS interconnects the business registers of EU Member States and is operated by the Commission.

In refusing public access, the Commission argued that the requested dataset does not qualify as an existing document, in line with EU case law, because it could not be retrieved as part of the normal operations of the BRIS IT-system and would require additional programming.

The Ombudsman found that, given the specificities of the database in question, substantial investment would be required to extract the dataset from BRIS and present it to the complainant in a readable format. The decision of the Commission to refuse access was therefore reasonable.

The Ombudsman therefore closed the inquiry with the conclusion that there was no maladministration.