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Decision on how the European Commission dealt with a request for public access to documents concerning the negotiations for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines (case 2206/2021/MIG)

Måndag | 18 juli 2022

The case concerned a request for public access to documents related to the European Commission’s negotiations with pharmaceutical companies on the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines. Following a previous Ombudsman inquiry, the Commission began reviewing more of the documents covered by the request and granted the complainant access to parts of those documents it had reviewed. It promised that it would continue dealing with the request in due time.

The complainant considered that the Commission had failed to comply with its promise. The Ombudsman opened an inquiry and asked the Commission to explain how it was dealing with the complainant’s request, taking into account her previous inquiry. In the course of the inquiry, the Commission issued a decision on the remaining documents to which the complainant was seeking access. It also re-assessed documents (advance purchase agreements) it had previously disclosed in part and granted wider access to them, including on its website.

Against this background, the Ombudsman found that no further inquiries were justified at this stage and closed the case, calling on the Commission to continue its efforts towards greater transparency of the vaccine negotiations.

Closing note on the strategic initiative on how EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies record text and instant messages sent/received by staff members in their professional capacity (SI/4/2021/MIG)

Onsdag | 13 juli 2022

The EU administration is increasingly using means of modern electronic communication in its daily work. This reality should be reflected in the EU administration’s document management rules and practices.

Against this background, this strategic initiative aimed at starting a discussion on adequate record-keeping rules and practices, when it comes to electronic communication such as text and instant messaging. To this end, the Ombudsman gathered information from across the EU administration. She also looked at rules and practices at national and international level.

Based on the information gathered, the Ombudsman makes practical recommendations that could guide the EU administration’s practices going forward

Decision on the European Commission's refusal of public access to text messages exchanged between the Commission President and the CEO of a pharmaceutical company on the purchase of a COVID 19 vaccine (case 1316/2021/MIG)

Tisdag | 12 juli 2022

The case concerned a request for public access to text messages between the Commission President and the CEO of a pharmaceutical company on the purchase of COVID‑19 vaccines. The complainant referred to an article in the New York Times which referred to such text messages. The Commission said it did not hold the text messages.

The Ombudsman’s inquiry showed that the Commission had asked its President’s private office (cabinet) to search only for documents that fulfil the Commission’s recording criteria. As the Commission does not to register text messages, the search did not yield any results. Thus, the Commission had not attempted to identify any text messages beyond what had been registered in its record management system, and it had therefore not even assessed whether any such text messages should be disclosed.

The Ombudsman considered that this constituted maladministration. She recommended that the Commission ask its President’s private office to search again for the text messages, making it clear that the search should not be limited to documents that fulfil its recording criteria. If any text messages were identified, the Commission should then assess whether the complainant can be granted public access to them in line with EU law.

In reply, the Commission did not inform the Ombudsman whether it had carried out that search for unregistered text messages. The Commission did not give any reasons for not conducting such a search.

Against that background, the Ombudsman confirmed her finding of maladministration.