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Decision in case 1877/2019/LM on the European Commission’s decision to offset against a previous outstanding debt a payment due to an association participating in a project under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme

Måndag | 23 november 2020

The complainant, a non-profit association, is a partner in an EU-funded project under the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, which is managed by the Research Executive Agency (REA). It had an outstanding debt to the European Commission, which it was paying back in instalments. The Commission decided to offset the ’pre-financing’ payment, which should have been made to the complainant at the start of the project, against the complainant’s outstanding debt with the Commission. The complainant agreed to continue its tasks under the project, but turned to the Ombudsman to seek an alternative solution.

The Ombudsman found that the Commission was legally obliged to offset the pre-financing payment, and that it informed the complainant and the project coordinator about this in good time. The complainant had willingly chosen to participate in the project under these terms. The Ombudsman therefore closed the case with a finding of no maladministration. However, she made a suggestion for improvement to the Commission and the REA on the need to improve communication with project partners in future cases.

Beslut i ärende 924/2020/TE om hur Europeiska kommissionen hanterade en begäran om att skjuta upp en antidumpningsundersökning under covid-19-krisen

Tisdag | 20 oktober 2020

Klagomålet gällde Europeiska kommissionens vägran att skjuta upp en antidumpningsundersökning avseende import av kinesiska aluminiumprodukter eller, alternativt, att ge en italiensk importör mer tid att besvara kommissionens begäran om upplysningar.

Ombudsmannen noterade att kommissionen redan hade förlängt tidsfristerna för att ta hänsyn till de utmaningar som covid-19-krisen medför. Att förlänga tidsfristerna ytterligare skulle kunna ha undergrävt kommissionens förmåga att fullgöra sina skyldigheter att slutföra antidumpningsundersökningen inom de lagstadgade tidsfrister som är bindande för den. Ombudsmannen fann därför att kommissionen agerade på ett rimligt sätt och avslutade ärendet med att konstatera att det inte förelåg något administrativt missförhållande.

Decision in case 1878/2019/LM on how the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) dealt with a complaint from a participant in the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme

Torsdag | 02 juli 2020

The complainant, a young Italian entrepreneur, participated in an exchange with a more experienced entrepreneur in Germany in the context of the ‘Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme’ set up by the EU Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME). The exchange was terminated early. The complainant considered that EASME had failed to monitor the exchange and he wished to be compensated financially. EASME allowed the complainant another exchange for the remaining period, but it did not grant him any financial compensation.

The Ombudsman found that EASME had investigated the case diligently and that its decision not to pay compensation was in accordance with the rules governing the programmes. The Ombudsman therefore closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration. The Ombudsman made a suggestion for improvement to EASME for the purpose of ensuring that the entrepreneurs involved are duly informed of the intention to terminate an exchange early.

Decision in case 861/2019/MDC on the alleged failure of the European Commission to deal properly with a request for assistance by an external expert

Torsdag | 02 april 2020

The case concerned the European Commission’s alleged failure to deal properly with a request for assistance. The request was made by a person whose contract was terminated by the contractor that engaged her to work on an EU funded project and that had a service contract with the EU Delegation to Sierra Leone. Among other things, the complainant complained about an EU official’s complicity in harassment by a third party.

The Ombudsman found that the allegation of complicity as regards harassment was not substantiated. Moreover, the Ombudsman considered reasonable the explanations which the Commission gave for its position.

The Ombudsman closed the inquiry with a finding of no maladministration.

Decision in case 699/2019/AMF on how the EU Delegation to Algeria handled the contract termination of an expert in an EU-funded project

Onsdag | 25 mars 2020

The complainant worked as an expert for an external contractor of the EU Delegation to Algeria. The purpose of the contract was to provide technical assistance to the Algerian authorities in the context of an EU funded programme in the transport area. The Delegation asked that the complainant be replaced, with the result that the external contractor terminated his contract on the same day. The complainant turned to the Ombudsman arguing that the Delegation had not heard him before requesting his replacement.

While there may have been no legal obligation for the Delegation to hear the complainant, the Ombudsman has consistently taken the view that individuals whom the institutions ask to be replaced should be heard before they are dismissed. In this case, the Delegation did not do enough to reassure itself, after it had made its request, that the complainant had been heard. While this is regrettable, the Ombudsman notes that the complainant had been made aware of the issues, during the project. The Ombudsman further notes improvements that have been introduced in the meantime that should avoid similar incidents in the future. On this basis, she closes the case.