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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)

Venerdì | 09 settembre 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.

 

Decision on the refusal by the Council of the EU to grant public access to documents concerning informal arrangements with non-EU countries about returning migrants (readmission agreements) (case 815/2022/MIG)

Giovedì | 01 settembre 2022

The case concerned a request by two researchers for public access to documents related to the informal agreements on return and readmission of irregular migrants that the EU has concluded with six non-EU countries. The Council of the EU refused access, arguing that disclosure could undermine international relations.

The Ombudsman inquiry team inspected the documents at issue and obtained additional explanations from the Council, including confidential information. Based on this and considering the wide margin of discretion that EU institutions enjoy where they consider that the public interest as regards international relations is at risk, the Ombudsman found that the Council’s decision to refuse access was not manifestly wrong. Given that the public interest at stake cannot be superseded by another public interest that is deemed more important, the Ombudsman closed the case finding no maladministration. That said, every effort should be made to reassure the public that the fundamental rights of migrants are respected and adequate safeguards are in place in this process.

Decision on the European Commission's refusal to give public access to an informal arrangement with the Gambia about returning migrants (case 1271/2022/MIG)

Giovedì | 01 settembre 2022

The case concerned a request for public access to documents related to an informal agreement on return and readmission of irregular migrants that the EU concluded with the Gambia. The Commission refused access, arguing that disclosure could undermine international relations.

The Ombudsman inquiry team inspected the document at issue as well as, in the context of a parallel inquiry, five similar agreements with other non-EU countries and related documents. Based on these inspections and considering the wide margin of discretion that EU institutions enjoy where they consider that the public interest as regards international relations is at risk, the Ombudsman found that the Commission’s decision to refuse access was not manifestly wrong. Given that the public interest at stake cannot be superseded by another public interest that is deemed more important, the Ombudsman closed the case finding no maladministration. She noted, however, that every effort should be made to reassure the public that the fundamental rights of migrants are sufficiently protected and adequate safeguards are in place in this process.

Decisione sulle modalità con cui la Commissione europea ha trattato una richiesta di accesso del pubblico a e-mail di suoi rappresentanti con sede in Grecia, riguardanti la situazione migratoria in due punti di crisi (caso 211/2022/TM)

Martedì | 28 giugno 2022

Il denunciante ha chiesto alla Commissione europea l’accesso a e-mail di suoi rappresentanti con sede in Grecia, riguardanti la situazione migratoria in due punti di crisi. Sulla base di queste e-mail e di altre informazioni, la Commissione redige «relazioni giornaliere» e «relazioni sulla gestione della migrazione». Rispondendo alla richiesta del denunciante, la Commissione ha fornito ampio accesso alle relazioni giornaliere e a quelle sulla gestione della migrazione, ma non ha individuato le e-mail dei suoi rappresentanti sul campo come rientranti nell’ambito di applicazione della richiesta.

Durante l’indagine, la Commissione ha spiegato di aver considerato che le e-mail in questione non costituissero «documenti» ai sensi della normativa dell’UE sull’accesso del pubblico ai documenti, né che soddisfacessero i criteri per essere registrate nel suo sistema di gestione documentale. La Commissione ha inoltre confermato che le e-mail richieste dal denunciante non esistono più, poiché sono state cancellate conformemente alla politica di conservazione applicabile.

Giacché le e-mail richieste dal denunciante erano «documenti» ai sensi della normativa dell’UE sull’accesso del pubblico ai documenti, la Commissione avrebbe dovuto individuarle come tali e valutare la possibilità di concedere l’accesso ai documenti che esistevano ancora all’epoca della richiesta. Il fatto che la Commissione non abbia agito in tal senso costituisce cattiva amministrazione.

Avendo la Commissione informato la Mediatrice che i documenti in questione non esistono più, una raccomandazione per chiedere alla Commissione di individuarli e valutarli adesso non avrebbe alcuna utilità e ulteriori indagini in merito non sarebbero giustificate.

La Mediatrice invita la Commissione a individuare e valutare tutti i documenti rientranti nell’ambito di eventuali richieste future conformemente alla normativa dell’UE sull’accesso del pubblico ai documenti e alla luce delle sue constatazioni nel caso di specie.

 

Decision on the European Commission’s failure to take a final decision in a timely manner on a request for public access to documents concerning a project funded under the Internal Security Fund (case 1896/2021/MIG)

Martedì | 17 maggio 2022

The case concerned the European Commission’s failure to reply in time to a request for public access to documents concerning an EU funded project on the legal framework and capability in terms of search and rescue of the Libyan Coast Guard.

The Ombudsman found that there were shortcomings in how the Commission dealt with the public access request with the result that it took too long. However, since the Ombudsman is now examining, from a systemic perspective, the time taken by the Commission to deal with requests for public access to documents, she considered that no further inquiries were justified in this case. She thus closed the inquiry.