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Decision in case 906/2020/VB on a request made by the European Commission to the members of the EU Expert Group on the Birds and Habitats Directive (NADEG) concerning a proposed restriction on lead gunshot in wetland areas

Quinta-Feira | 17 dezembro 2020

The case concerned an information paper sent by the European Commission to the members of the Expert Group on the Birds and Habitats Directives (NADEG). In the paper, the Commission asked NADEG members to contact their national authorities to raise awareness about and encourage them to vote in favour of a draft Commission Regulation, which included new restrictions on lead gunshot in wetland areas.

The complainant, an MEP, contended that, in making this request, the Commission was acting beyond its mandate by seeking to influence, through the members of NADEG, a vote on a draft implementing act.

The Ombudsman notes that the Commission has a legitimate interest in seeing its regulatory proposals approved. That having been said, she considers that, in this case, the Commission’s request went beyond what is appropriate to promote its legitimate interest.

The Ombudsman has no evidence that this is a standard Commission practice. As such, and given that the relevant vote has taken place, the Ombudsman finds it sufficient to make the Commission aware of her views on the matter and that no further inquiries are justified.

Decision in case 154/2020/DL on how the Research Executive Agency dealt with a recruitment procedure carried out in the context of an EU-funded project under the Horizon 2020 programme

Segunda-Feira | 09 novembro 2020

The case concerned a recruitment procedure organised by the University of Ljubljana as part of an EU-funded project, under the Horizon 2020 programme. The complainant claimed that irregularities occurred in the recruitment procedure, and reported this to the Research Executive Agency (REA), which is responsible for the implementation of the programme. Dissatisfied with how REA dealt with his complaint, he turned to the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman found that REA investigated the issue and advised the university on steps to take to address certain shortcomings it had identified. The university followed REA’s advice.

The Ombudsman therefore found that REA dealt appropriately with the matter and closed the case, finding no maladministration.

Decision in case 563/2020/MMO on the non-renewal of an employment contract with the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol)

Quarta-Feira | 28 outubro 2020

The case concerned the non-renewal of the complainant’s employment contract after he had worked for 11 years at Europol.

The Ombudsman noted that there is no obligation on EU agencies to renew fixed-term employment contracts. EU agencies also enjoy wide discretion as regards their internal organisation, which includes defining the conditions for contract renewal. In this case, Europol followed the applicable rules and there is no indication that it committed a manifest error of assessment nor that it abused its power by not renewing the complainant’s contract.

The Ombudsman closed the inquiry finding no maladministration.

Decision in case 784/2019/JN on the European Commission´s decision to reject certain costs in the context of an EU-funded project supporting education in Somalia

Terça-Feira | 13 outubro 2020

The case concerned the European Commission´s decision to reject almost EUR 50 000 in the context of an EU-funded project supporting education in Somalia.

The Ombudsman made the preliminary finding that the Commission´s decision was not fair. She made a corresponding proposal for a solution.

The Commission disagreed with the Ombudsman´s proposal and provided additional explanations for its position. The grant agreement, it said, contains a list of non-eligible costs including salary costs of the personnel of national administrations, at issue here. Declaring the costs eligible, although they are clearly ineligible, could create a precedent that the rules in question can be circumvented. In light of these and further explanations, the Ombudsman reached the conclusion that no further inquiries were justified. The grant agreement, read as a whole, supports the Commission´s position sufficiently.

However, the Ombudsman considered it regrettable that an organisation that successfully carried out a project in good faith and incurred the costs in question, should find itself in this situation. She suggested that the Commission consider how it could improve the clarity of the information in its ‘grant agreements’ with entities selected to carry out EU-funded projects, to avoid similar cases arising in the future.