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Freedom of Information in the EU in the midst of Legal Rules, Jurisprudence and Ombudsprudence: the European Ombudsman as Developer of Norms of Good Administration

Abstract

European Ombudsman – Free access to information in the EU – Regulation No 1049/2001– Standard of assessment used by European Ombudsman – Legal norms versus norms of good administration and whether good administration can be understood outside legality – European Code of Good Administrative Behaviour and the rather ambiguous concept of maladministration – European Ombudsman as developer of norms of good administration in the area of free access to information – A rather limited role as developer of norms of good administration for the European Ombudsman in individual decisions – Role in ‘translating’ the case law into somewhat more accessible jargon and explaining how existing principles and norms of good governance apply to the circumstances of a specific case – Own inquiries as a policy instrument for advising EU institutions and agencies on how to deal with certain aspects pertaining to access to documents and transparency – Interesting interplay between European Ombudsman and the courts

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The article is based on a presentation at The European Ombudsman’s 20th Anniversary Colloquium, Brussels, 22 June 2015, <www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/activities/calendarevent.faces/en/983/html.bookmark>. Previous partial and undeveloped findings were used also for a chapter in J. Ziller and H. Hofman, Accountability in the EU: The role of the European Ombudsman (Edward Elgar 2017).

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1 D. Curtin and P. Leino-Sandberg, ‘Openness, Transparency and the Right of Access to Documents in the EU’, (2016), <www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/IDAN/2016/556973/IPOL_IDA(2016)556973_EN.pdf>, visited 5 October 2017; Szabo S. et al., ‘Linking Objective-Oriented Transparency to Political Leadership and Strategic Planning’, special issue/December Transylvanian Review of Administrative Sciences (2016) p. 75 ; Roberts A., ‘Dashed Expectations: Governmental Adaptation to Transparency Rules’, in C. Hood and D. Heald (eds.), Transparency: The Key to Better Governance? (Oxford University Press 2006) p. 107 .

2 European Ombudsman, ‘Good Administration in Practice: The European Ombudsman’s Decisions in 2013’, (2014), p. 6 <www.theioi.org/downloads/9d5gm/EU_OM_Good%20administration%20in%20practice_Oct%202014_EN.pdf> visited 5 October 2017.

3 S. van Bijsterveld, ‘Transparency in the European Union: A Crucial Link in Shaping the New Social Contract between the Citizen and the EU’ (Transparency in Europe II, proceedings of conference hosted by the Netherlands during its Chairmanship of the EU Council, 25 and 26 November 2004) p. 2, <www.ip-rs.si/fileadmin/user_upload/Pdf/clanki/Agenda__Bijsterveld-Paper.pdf>, visited 5 October 2017.

4 Transparency International, ‘EU Institutions are less Transparent than Many Member States’ (EurActiv.com, 02 September 2015), <www.euractiv.com/sections/trade-society/eu-institutions-are-less-transparent-many-member-states-317240>, visited 26 August 2017.

5 Ibid.

6 M. Dawson, The Governance of EU Fundamental Rights (Cambridge University Press 2017) p. 32.

7 H. Labayle, ‘Openness, Transparency and Access to Documents and Information in the European Union’ (2013) p. 11, <www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/note/join/2013/493035/IPOL-LIBE_NT%282013%29493035_EN.pdf> visited 5 October 2017; see also Curtin and Leino-Sandberg, supra n. 1.

8 S. de Greuges de Catalunya, ‘The Right of Access to Public Information’ (March 2012), <www.sindic.cat/site/unitFiles/3151/Report%20access%20to%20public%20information.pdf> visited 19 February 2017.

9 Labayle, supra n. 7, p. 31.

10 Curtin and Leino-Sandberg, supra n. 1, p. 5.

11 Van Bijsterveld, supra n. 3, p. 4.

12 Ibid., p. 5.

13 J. Crisp, ‘Secretive “Trialogue” Talks to Agree EU Law Face Investigation’, EurActiv.com (21 April 2015), <www.euractiv.com/sections/eu-priorities-2020/secretive-trialogue-talks-agree-eu-law-face-investigation-313936> visited 5 October 2017.

14 de Leeuw M.E., ‘The European Ombudsman’s Role as a Developer of Norms of Good Administration’, 17(2) EPL (2011) p. 349 .

15 Pino A.M. Moure, ‘The European Ombudsman in the Framework of the European Union’, 38(3) Revista Chilena de Derecho (2011) p. 426 .

16 Remac M., Coordinating Ombudsmen and the Judiciary (Intersentia 2014) p. 3-4 ; Gregory R. and Giddings P., ‘The Ombudsman Institution: Growth and Development’, in R. Gregory and P. Giddings (eds.), Righting Wrongs. The Ombudsmen in Six Continents (IOS Press 2000) p. 6-7 .

17 M. A. Marshall and L. C. Reif, ‘The Ombudsman: Maladministration and Alternative Dispute Resolution’, XXXIV/1, Alberta Law Review (1995).

18 Gregory and Giddings, supra n. 16, p. 11.

19 Remac M., ‘Standards of Ombudsman Assessment: A New Normative Concept?’, 9(3) Utrecht Law Review (2013) p. 63-64 .

20 Apud de Leeuw, supra n. 14, p. 349-350; de Leeuw M.E., ‘The European Ombudsman’s Role as a Developer of Norms of Good Administration’, 17(2) EPL (2011) p. 349 .

21 de Leeuw, supra n. 14, p. 350.

22 Ibid.

23 Remac, supra n. 19, p. 63-67.

24 Ibid., p. 66.

25 Ibid., pp. 67-69.

26 N. Diamandouros, ‘The Ombudsman Institution and the Quality of Democracy’ (Occasional paper based on the lecture with the same title offered at the University of Siena, Italy on 17 October 2006) pp. 9-10, <www.circap.org/uploads/1/8/1/6/18163511/diamanduros.pdf> visited 5 October 2017.

27 Ibid., p. 10.

28 Ibid., p. 9-12.

29 Remac, supra n. 19, p. 76.

30 Tsadiras A., ‘Maladministration and Life beyond Legality: The European Ombudsman’s Paradigm’, 11 International Review of Law (2015) p. 2 .

31 R. Gregory, ‘The European Union Ombudsman’, in Gregory and Giddings (eds.), supra n. 16, p. 156–157.

32 Tsadiras, supra n. 30, p. 2.

33 de Leeuw, supra n. 14, p. 351.

34 Moure Pino, supra n. 15, p. 433.

35 European Ombudsman, ‘Annual Report 1995’ (22 April 1996), <www.ombudsman.europa.eu/activities/annualreports.faces>, visited 5 October 2017, p. 8-9.

36 European Ombudsman, ‘Annual Report 1997’ (20 April 1998) p. 22–24, <www.ombudsman.europa.eu/activities/annualreports.faces>, visited 5 October 2017.

37 Ibid.

38 Tsadiras, supra n. 30, p. 6.

39 J. Mendes, ‘Good Administration in EU Law and the European Code of Good Administrative Behavior’ (EUI Working Papers, September 2009) pp. 4–5, <http://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/12101/LAW_2009_09.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y> visited 5 October 2017. Ibid.

40 Ibid., p. 3.

41 Ibid., p. 1.

42 While Moure Pino, supra n. 15, p. 440 argues that this was the sole goal of the Code, Mendes, supra n. 39, p. 6 claims that the distinctive feature of good administration lies in the combination of and partial overlap between legality and the aspects of good administration that stand beyond it, and that this is why the Code should not be regarded as explicating the right to good administration as envisaged in Art. 41 of the Charter.

43 de Leeuw, supra n. 14, p. 354; Mendes, supra n. 39, p. 12.

44 de Leeuw, supra n. 14, p. 355.

45 P.M. Langbroek and P. Rijpkema, ‘Demands of Proper Administrative Conduct: A Research Project into the Ombudsprudence of the Dutch National Ombudsman’, 2(2) Utrecht Law Review (2006) p. 81; M.E. de Leeuw, ‘An Empirical Study into the Norms of Good Administration as Operated by the European Ombudsman in the Field of Tenders’ (EUI Working Papers, 2009) p. 1, <http://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/11234/EUI_RSCAS_2009_20.pdf?sequence=3> visited 5 October 2017; M. Remac and P.M. Langbroek, ‘Ombudsman’s Assessment of Public Administration Conduct: Between Legal and Good Administration Norms’, IV/2 The NISPAcee Jornal of Public Administration and Policy (2011/2012) p. 87.

46 Mendes, supra n. 39.

47 European Ombudsman, supra n. 2, p. 2; Diamandouros, supra n. 26, p. 11.

48 Speech by Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly given to the conference organized with the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Ombudsman Office in Brussels, 22 June 2015.

49 Ibid.

50 de Leeuw, supra n. 14, p. 365; Rawlings R., ‘Engaged Elites: Citizen Action and Institutional Attitudes in Commission Enforcement’, in C. Kilpatrick et al., The Future of Remedies in Europe (Hart Publishing 2000) p. 282-286 .

51 de Leeuw, supra n. 14, p. 359.

52 Tsadiras, supra n. 30, p. 6.

53 Chalmers D. et al., European Union Law: Text and Materials (Cambridge University Press 2008) p. 344 .

54 Diamandouros, supra n. 26, p. 12.

55 European Ombudsman, supra n. 2, p. 2.

56 Based on EO’s annual reports, 21.5% of decisions regarded access to information and documents in 2014, 22.5 % in 2015, and 29.6% in 2016.

57 Curtin and Leino-Sandberg, supra n. 1; Labayle, supra n. 7; U. Biskup and Rosch W., ‘Recent case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union on Public Access to Documents: Regulation (EG) No. 1049/2001 and Beyond’, 2 Revue Internationale de la Gouvernements Ouvert (2015) p. 47 .

58 European Ombudsman Case: 465/2010/FOR, 30 November 2010.

59 Case: 272/2014/OV; see also the case law of the ECJ on partial disclosure: ECJ 14 November 2013, Joined Cases C-514/11 P and C-605/11, P Liga para a Protecção de Natureza (LPN) and Finland v Commission, para. 67.

60 European Ombudsman Case: 671/2007/PB, 12 July 2010; Case: 465/2010/FOR, 30 November 2010; Case: 2293/2008/(BB)(FOR)TN, 17 December 2012; Case: 1453/2011/MMN, 29 August 2013.

61 European Ombudsman Case: 2493/2008/(BB)(TS)FOR, 23 March 2012.

62 European Ombudsman Case: 2632/2009/(SIT)(PF)JF, 12 August 2011; Case: 3163/2007/(BEH)KM, 05 January 2010.

63 European Ombudsman Case: 2493/2008/(BB)(TS)FOR 23 March 2012.

64 European Ombudsman Case: 884/2010/VIK 17 February 2011.

65 European Ombudsman Case: 2470/2009/(TS)TN 02 December 2011.

66 European Ombudsman Case: 947/2016/JN 24 July 2017.

67 European Ombudsman Case: 349/2014/OV 17 March 2015.

68 European Ombudsman, ‘Public Access to to Information in Eu Data Bases’ (2008), <www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/resources/otherdocument.faces/en/4160/html.bookmark> visited 5 October 2017.

69 European Ombudsman Case: 2493/2008/(BB)(TS)FOR 23 March 2012.

70 ECJ 6 December 2001, Case C-353/99 P, Council of the European Union v Heidi Hautala.

71 Opinion of AG Léger delivered on 10 July 2001, <http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX%3A61999CC0353> visited 5 October 2017.

72 European Ombudsman Case: 1111/2012/AN 13 June 2013.

73 European Ombudsman Case: 1633/2008/DK 07 June 2011.

74 European Ombudsman Case: 122/2014/PMC 19 February 2015.

75 ECJ 21 July 2011, C-506/08 P, Sweden and MyTravel v Commission, para. 73 and ECJ 17 October 2013, C-280/11 P, Council v Access Info Europe, para. 28.

76 See, for example, ECJ 29 June 2010, C-139/07 P, Commission v Technische Glaswerke Ilmenau, para. 51; ECJ 28 June 2012, C-404/10 P, Kommission v Éditions Odile Jacob, para. 111, and ECJ 28 June 2012, C-477/10 P, Commission v Agrofert Holding, para. 53; ECJ 21 September 2010, C-514/07 P, C-528/07 P and C-532/07 P, Sweden e.a. v API and Commission, paras. 69 and 70; ECJ 14 November 2013, C-514/11 P and C-605/11 P, LPN and Finland v Commission, para. 53.

77 The test was developed in ECJ 1 July 2008, Joined Cases C-39/05 P and C-52/05 P, Sweden and Turco v Council, para. 43, in relation to legal advice.

78 European Ombudsman Case: 2293/2008/(BB)(FOR)TN 17 December 2012.

79 ECJ 18 December 2007, C-64/05 P, Kingdom of Sweden v Commission, para. 66; ECJ 1 July 2008, C-39/05 P and C-52/05 P, Kingdom of Sweden and Maurizio Turco v Council, paras. 34, 35 and 36; see also ECJ 1 February 2007, C-266/05 P, Sison v Council [2007] ECR I-1233, para. 63.

80 European Ombudsman Case: 582/2005/PB 11 July 2006; Case: 119/2015/PHP 04 November 2015.

81 ECJ 3 July 2014, C-350/12 P, Council v Sophie in’t Veld, para. 52.

82 ECJ 4 May 2012, T-529/09, Sophie in’t Veld v Council, EU:T.2012:215, para. 20; ECJ 6 December 2012, T-167/10, Evropaïki Dynamiki et al. v Commission.

83 Case 119/2015/PHP; Case 3106/2007/(TS)FOR; Case 98/2012/ER.

84 Curtin and Leino-Sandberg, supra n. 1, p. 6; Biskup and Rosch, supra n. 57, p. 60-61.

85 ECJ 1 July 2008, Cases C-39/05 P and C-52/05 P, Sweden and Turco v Council [2008] ECR I-4723, para. 50.

86 See ECJ 10 June 2010, Case C-139/07, Commission v Technische Glaswerke Ilmenau [2010] ECR I-5885.

87 ECJ 28 November 2013, Case C-404/10 P, Commission v Editions Odile Jacob and ECJ 28 June 2012, Case C-477/10 P, Commission v Agrofert Holding.

88 ECJ 21 September 2010, Case C-532/07 P, Sweden v API and Commission [2010] ECR I-8533.

89 ECJ 14 November 2013, Case T-29/08, Liga para a Protecçao de Natureza (LPN) v Commission [2011] ECR II-6021.

90 European Ombudsman Case: 98/2012/ER 27 September 2013; Case: 2004/2013/PMC 05 November 2015; Case: 2781/2008/(TS)FOR 04 April 2013.

91 ECJ 21 July 2011, Case C-506/08 P, Sweden v MyTravel and Commission.

92 ECJ 28 November 2013, Case C-576/12 P, Ivan Jurasinovic v Council of the European Union, para. 45.

93 ECJ 4 May 2012, Case T-529/09, Sophie in ’t Veld v the Council supported by the Commission (In ‘t Veld I); ECJ 12 September 2013, Case T-331/11, Leonard Besselink v the Council; European Ombudsman Case: 119/2015/PHP 04 November 2015; Case: 2393/2011/RA 22 July 2013.

94 European Ombudsman Case: 119/2015/PHP 04 November 2015; OI/10/2014/RA 06 January 2015; Case: 689/2014/JAS 02 September 2015.

95 European Ombudsman Case: 1701/2011/ANA 24 June 2013; Case: 676/2008/RT 07 July 2010.

96 European Ombudsman Case: 1922/2014/PL 30 August 2016.

97 European Ombudsman Case: 676/2008/RT 07 July 2010; Case: 181/2013/AN 16 February 2015.

98 European Ombudsman Case: 3699/2006/ELB 06 April 2010; Case: 725/2014/FOR 01 October 2015; Case: 248/2016/PB 31 October 2016.

99 European Ombudsman Case: 2004/2013/PMC 05 November 2015.

100 European Ombudsman Case: 685/2014/MHZ 12 January 2015; Case: 349/2014/OV 17 March 2015.

101 ECJ 6 July 2006, Joined Cases T-391/03 and T-70/04, Franchet and Byk v Commission.

102 European Ombudsman Case: 1506/2014/JAS, 17 September 2015.

103 ECJ 16 July 2015, Case C-612/13 P, ClientEarth v Commission, para. 57.

104 ECJ 14 November 2013, Joined Cases C-514/11 P and C-605/11 P, LPN and Finland v Commission, para. 65.

105 European Ombudsman Case: 1506/2014/JAS 17 September 2015.

106 European Ombudsman Case: 755/2014/BEH 12 June 2014.

107 European Ombudsman Case: 292/2016/AMF 05 July 2017.

108 European Ombudsman Case: 2781/2008/(TS)FOR 04 April 2013.

109 ECJ 17 October 2013, Case C-280/11 P, Council of the European Union v Access Info Europe.

110 European Ombudsman Case: 2914/2009/DK 14 March 2012.

111 European Ombudsman Case: 2186/2012/FOR 16 June 2015; Case: OI/8/2015/JAS 12 July 2016.

112 European Ombudsman Case: 2073/2010/AN 01 December 2011.

113 European Ombudsman Case: 1743/2013/TN 20 May 2014.

114 European Ombudsman Case: 369/2013/TN 28 July 2016.

115 European Ombudsman Case: 2266/2013/JN 02 March 2015.

116 European Ombudsman Case: OI/10/2014/RA 06 January 2015.

117 European Ombudsman Case: 1861/2009/(JF)AN 15 February 2011; Case: 1403/2012/CK 28 August 2013.

118 ECJ 20 March 2014, T-181/10, Reagens SpA v Commission.

119 ECJ 25 September 2014, T-669/11 and T-306/12, Spirlea v Commission.

120 Curtin and Leino-Sandberg, supra n. 1, p. 6.

121 European Ombudsman Case: 1039/2008/FOR 03 November 2010.

122 European Ombudsman Case: 172/2010/ANA 23 November 2010; Case: 119/2015/PHP 04 November 2015; Case: OI/3/2014/FOR 08 June 2016.

123 European Ombudsman Case: 3106/2007/(TS)FOR.

124 European Ombudsman 11 months for instance – see Case: 2058/2011/(BEH)JN 23 July 2013; Case: 119/2015/PHP 04 November 2015.

125 European Ombudsman Case: 2351/2012/JAS 23 June 2016; Case: 1402/2014/DK 21 November 2016.

126 European Ombudsman Case: OI/6/2013/KM 11 March 2015; Case: OI/10/2015/NF 21 December 2016.

127 Ibid.

128 European Ombudsman Case: 1869/2013/AN 03 November 2014.

129 European Ombudsman Case: 1199/2016/DR 16 June 2017.

130 European Ombudsman Case: 339/2011/AN 19 January 2012.

131 European Ombudsman Case: 277/2012/RA 02 July 2013.

132 Ibid.

133 European Ombudsman Case: OI/12/2011/(JSA)JF 27 May 2013; Case: OI/12/2012/EIS 27 May 2013; Case: OI/13/2011/(JSA)JF 05 June 2013; Case: OII/11/2012/ANA 20 June 2013.

134 European Ombudsman Case: 2016/2011/AN 19 July 2012.

135 See for instance European Ombudsman Case: 520/2014/PMC 24 February 2016; Case: 1398/2013/ANA 31 March 2016; Case: 2049/2014/NF 15 March 2016.

136 European Ombudsman Case: 852/2014/LP 06 December 2016.

137 de Leeuw, supra n. 14, p. 354-355 and Mendes, supra n. 39, p. 6-7; L. Grolman, ‘Life Beyond Legality: Lessons from the EU and UK for an Australian Charter or Principles of Good Administration’ (1 June 2014) p. 19, <http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2568293> visited 5 October 2017.

138 European Ombudsman Case: 1817/2010/RA 19 September 2013.

139 European Ombudsman Case: 1972/2009/ANA 11 December 2012.

140 European Ombudsman Case: 0262/2012/OV; Case: 0217/2008/(IP)FOR 04 November 2014.

141 European Ombudsman Case: 3163/2007/(BEH)KM 05 January 2010.

142 European Ombudsman Case: 640/2011/AN 04 October 2012; Case: 875/2011/JF 27 June 2013.

143 European Ombudsman Case: 0454/2006/(IP)MF; Case: 1825/2009/IP 15 November 2010.

144 European Ombudsman Case: 122/2014/PMC 19 February 2015.

145 European Ombudsman Case: 271/2010/GG 18 March 2011.

146 European Ombudsman Case: 1869/2013/AN 03 November 2014.

147 European Ombudsman Case: 1906/2011/TN 14 February 2013.

148 de Leeuw, supra n. 45, p. 31.

149 Ibid.

150 European Ombudsman Case: 2006/2011/ER 24 July 2013.

151 European Ombudsman Case: 1869/2013/AN 03 November 2014.

152 Grolman, supra n. 137.

153 European Ombudsman Case: 3643/2005/(GK)WP 14 July 2008.

154 Curtin and Leino-Sandberg, supra n. 1, p. 5.

* The article is based on a presentation at The European Ombudsman’s 20th Anniversary Colloquium, Brussels, 22 June 2015, <www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/activities/calendarevent.faces/en/983/html.bookmark>. Previous partial and undeveloped findings were used also for a chapter in J. Ziller and H. Hofman, Accountability in the EU: The role of the European Ombudsman (Edward Elgar 2017).

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