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Decision in case 1564/2020/TE on the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority’s refusal to grant public access to the votes and debates of its Board of Supervisors on draft regulatory technical standards

It-Tlieta | 18 Mejju 2021

The case concerned the refusal of the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) to grant public access to the voting results and related reasoning concerning its Board of Supervisors’ decision on a draft regulatory technical standard on packaged retail and insurance-based investment products.

The Ombudsman inquired into the matter and came to the preliminary assessment that draft regulatory technical standards, as adopted by EIOPA’s Board of Supervisors, and any documents related to their adoption, constitute important elements of the process for the adoption of the ensuing delegated act by the European Commission. In this context, the Ombudsman was not convinced by the arguments put forward by EIOPA to refuse public access and she took the preliminary view that EIOPA should release the requested information.

EIOPA positively replied to the Ombudsman’s preliminary assessment. EIOPA committed to disclosing the requested information and to ensuring that future minutes of its Board of Supervisors contain appropriate information on Board members’ votes concerning decisions on legislative documents. The Ombudsman welcomed EIOPA’s reply and the steps taken, and closed the inquiry.

Deċiżjoni fil-każ 763/2020/DL dwar in-nuqqas tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea li tippubblika b’mod proattiv id-“deċiżjonijiet konfermatorji” kollha li tieħu wara talbiet għal rieżami dwar talbiet għal aċċess pubbliku għal dokumenti

It-Tlieta | 06 April 2021

Il-każ kien jikkonċerna d-deċiżjoni tal-Kummissjoni Ewropea li ma tippubblikax b’mod proattiv id-deċiżjonijiet finali li tieħu dwar talbiet għal aċċess għal dokumenti. L-ilmentatur ikkunsidra li l-iżvelar proattiv ta’ dawn id-“deċiżjonijiet konfermatorji” huwa kruċjali għall-fehim pubbliku ta’ kif il-Kummissjoni timplimenta r-regoli tal-UE dwar l-aċċess għal dokumenti.

Matul l-investigazzjoni, il-Kummissjoni qalet li kienet qed tikkunsidra l-pubblikazzjoni proattiva tad-deċiżjonijiet konfermatorji tagħha. Hija impenjat ruħha wkoll li tiżvela informazzjoni addizzjonali dwar “il-portal għal aċċess għal dokumenti” online il-ġdid tagħha, biex tiffaċilita kif l-utenti jistgħu jfittxu dokumenti li diġà ġew żvelati. Fid-dawl ta’ dawn l-impenji, l-Ombudsman iddeċidiet li tagħlaq il-każ. Madankollu, hija qed tagħmel żewġ suġġerimenti lill-Kummissjoni biex tikkunsidra, bl-għan li ttejjeb il-“portal għal aċċess għal dokumenti” matul iż-żmien.

Deċiżjoni f’investigazzjoni strateġika OI/4/2020/TE dwar it-trasparenza tat-teħid tad-deċiżjonijiet mill-Kunsill tal-UE matul il-kriżi tal-COVID-19

L-Erbgħa | 24 Marzu 2021

L-Ombudsman fetħet “investigazzjoni strateġika” fuq inizjattiva proprja biex teżamina t-trasparenza tat-teħid ta’ deċiżjonijiet mill-Kunsill tal-UE matul il-kriżi tal-COVID-19. It-Trattati jeħtieġu li l-istituzzjonijiet tal-UE, inkluż il-Kunsill, joperaw b’mod miftuħ. B’mod partikolari, huma jeħtieġu li l-Kunsill jiltaqa’ fil-pubbliku meta jkun qiegħed jikkunsidra u jivvota dwar abbozzi ta’ atti leġiżlattivi.

Fil-kuntest tal-pandemija tal-COVID-19 u l-isfidi tar-restrizzjonijiet fuq l-ivvjaġġar u l-laqgħat, il-Kunsill kellu jadatta l-proċeduri operattivi u tat-teħid tad-deċiżjonijiet tiegħu biex jiżgura l-kontinwità istituzzjonali. Għal dan l-għan, il-Kunsill iddeċieda li jidderoga temporanjament mir-Regoli ta’ Proċedura tiegħu. Minbarra l-organizzazzjoni ta’ laqgħat virtwali u bidliet oħra, il-Kunsill bħalissa jieħu l-parti l-kbira tad-deċiżjonijiet permezz ta’ “proċedura bil-miktub”.

L-Ombudsman evalwat kif, fiċ-ċirkostanzi ta’ eċċezzjoni tal-kriżi tal-COVID-19, il-Kunsill żgura li kien konformi mal-obbligi tiegħu li jopera b’mod miftuħ.

L-Ombudsman sabet li l-ministri nazzjonali jiltaqgħu b’vidjokonferenza biex jiddiskutu l-fajls leġiżlattivi u mhux leġiżlattivi li sussegwentement jiġu adottati permezz ta’ proċedura bil-miktub. Fil-bidu tal-kriżi tal-COVID-19, dawn il-laqgħat remoti ma sarux fil-pubbliku, u ftit li xejn informazzjoni dwarhom saret pubblika. Dan kien taʼ dispjaċir. Madankollu, minn Lulju 2020, il-Kunsill bidel il-prattiki tiegħu. Beda jagħmel web streaming ta’ ċerti laqgħat remoti tal-ministri, u għamel dokumentazzjoni rilevanti pubblika. L-Ombudsman tilqa’ din il-bidla importanti. Hija tissuġġerixxi li l-Kunsill jagħmel pubblika dokumentazzjoni dwar il-vidjokonferenzi ministerjali kollha li saru fil-bidu tal-kriżi tal-COVID-19, bejn Marzu u Ġunju 2020.

L-Ombudsman sabet ukoll li, fil-bidu tal-investigazzjoni tagħha, ma kien hemm l-ebda informazzjoni pubblikament disponibbli dwar kif, fin-nuqqas ta’ laqgħat fiżiċi, il-korpi preparatorji tal-Kunsill komplew id-diskussjonijiet tagħhom dwar fajls leġiżlattivi u mhux leġiżlattivi. Hekk kif il-kriżi tal-COVID-19 kompliet, il-Kunsill ħa passi biex jagħmel dawn il-laqgħat remoti tal-ħaddiema taċ-ċivil nazzjonali aktar trasparenti, b’mod partikolari billi jippubblika l-aġendi qabel dawn il-laqgħat. L-Ombudsman tilqa’ l-passi li ttieħdu. Madankollu, hija tqis li jista’ jsir aktar u qed tagħmel tliet suġġerimenti oħra għal titjib f’dan ir-rigward.

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.