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Decision on the European Commission’s refusal to grant access to preparatory documents relating to anti-dumping measures on imports of steel fasteners from China (case 1379/2020/MAS)

It-Tnejn | 06 Settembru 2021

The case concerned the refusal of the European Commission to grant public access to preparatory documents relating to anti-dumping measures on imports of steel fasteners from China. The Commission did not identify for the complainant the documents falling within the scope of his request and refused access without individually and specifically examining them. Instead, it invoked a general presumption of confidentiality based on the protection of commercial interests and the purpose of investigations.

The Ombudsman had doubts that a general presumption of confidentiality was applicable in this case, notably given that the documents in question are now more than nine years old. She made a proposal for a solution, asking the Commission to provide the complainant with a list of the documents covered by his request and to examine specifically and individually each of the documents with a view to considering their disclosure.

While the Commission produced a list of the documents in question, it refused to examine specifically and individually the documents covered by the request.

It is settled case-law that the Commission is not obliged to apply a general presumption - it is an option. The Commission could have made use of that option and thereby followed the Ombudsman’s proposal for solution, to deliver greater transparency in this case. As the Commission’s reply to the Ombudsman’s proposal does not indicate any flexibility on this matter, the Ombudsman considers it appropriate to close her inquiry at this stage setting out her findings.

She maintains her doubts that a general presumption of confidentiality was applicable in this case. She hopes the Court will clarify this issue when given the opportunity.

Decision in case 1026/2020/MAS concerning the failure by the European Commission to finalise an updated 'sustainability impact assessment' before concluding the EU-Mercosur trade negotiations

L-Erbgħa | 17 Marzu 2021

The case concerned the European Commission’s failure to finalise a ‘sustainability impact assessment’ (SIA) before concluding the negotiations on a trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur, a South American trade bloc.

The complainants contended that, by not finalising the assessment, the Commission disregarded its own guidelines on SIAs and breached EU law. The Commission acknowledged that, in general, it would be preferable for SIAs to be finalised before the conclusion of trade negotiations, but argued that there is no legal requirement to do so.

The Ombudsman took the view that, while it was impossible to foresee the dynamics of the negotiations, the SIA in this case has taken much longer to finalise than anticipated. Specifically, the Commission should have ensured that the SIA was finalised before the conclusion of the EU-Mercosur trade negotiations.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission’s failure to ensure that the SIA was finalised in good time constituted maladministration. Considering that the negotiations have been concluded and that the Commission appears set to finalise the SIA process imminently, she takes the view that it would serve no purpose to make a recommendation. However, she urges the Commission to ensure that, in the future, SIAs are completed prior to the conclusion of trade negotiations.

 

Id-deċiżjoni fil-każ 1991/2019/KR dwar l-azzjoni tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea rigward il-valutazzjoni tas-sostenibbiltà għall-proġetti tal-gass fil-Lista attwali ta’ Proġetti ta’ Interess Komuni

It-Tlieta | 17 Novembru 2020

Il-każ kien jikkonċerna l-inklużjoni ta’ proġetti tal-gass fil-lista tal-UE tal-2019 ta’ Proġetti ta’ Interess Komuni (PCIs). Dawn huma proġetti ta’ infrastruttura tal-enerġija transfruntiera li għandhom jgħinu biex jintlaħqu l-objettivi tal-politika tal-UE dwar l-enerġija u l-klima. L-ilmentatur kien imħasseb li s-sostenibbiltà tal-proġetti tal-gass fuq dik il-lista ta’ PCIs ma kinitx ġiet ivvalutata b’mod sodisfaċenti, kif meħtieġ.

Il-Kummissjoni kienet diġà rrikonoxxiet li l-valutazzjoni tas-sostenibbiltà tal-proġetti tal-gass kandidati kienet subottimali minħabba nuqqas ta’ data u metodoloġiji inadegwati. Matul l-investigazzjoni, il-Kummissjoni infurmat lill-Ombudsman li qed taġġorna l-kriterju użat għall-valutazzjoni tas-sostenibbiltà tal-proġetti li huma kandidati għall-inklużjoni fil-lista ta’ PCIs li jmiss, li se tfassal fl-2021.

Fost affarijiet oħra, dan l-aġġornament huwa mistenni li jqis il-bilanċ tas-CO2 u tal-metan, kif ukoll l-impatti fuq l-effiċjenza, fil-valutazzjoni tal-proġetti. L-indikatur huwa mistenni li jirrifletti l-impatt mistenni tal-infrastruttura fuq l-intensità kumplessiva tal-gassijiet serra tal-produzzjoni tal-enerġija fi Stat Membru tal-UE partikolari u l-emissjonijiet relatati mal-funzjonament tal-infrastruttura nnifisha.

L-Ombudsman tilqa’ l-fatt li l-Kummissjoni se tiżgura li dan l-aġġornament ikun fis-seħħ qabel ma tittieħed id-deċiżjoni dwar il-lista ta’ PCIs li jmiss. Id-data tal-adozzjoni tal-lista ta’ PCIs li jmiss hija prevista għall-aħħar trimestru tal-2021.

Minħabba l-objettivi tal-UE dwar it-tibdil fil-klima u s-sostenibbiltà, hija ħaġa sfortunata li l-proġetti tal-gass ġew inklużi f’listi preċedenti ta’ PCIs, mingħajr ma ġiet ivvalutata kif xieraq is-sostenibbiltà tagħhom. Dan fisser li ma kienx possibbli li jiġu kklassifikati biex jiġu identifikati dawk l-aktar sostenibbli. Madankollu, il-Kummissjoni qed tieħu l-azzjoni meħtieġa bir-riżultat li mhumiex iġġustifikati investigazzjonijiet ulterjuri tal-Ombudsman f’dan l-istadju.