Access Info Europe and 53 requesters from across Europe appealed to the European Ombudsman about the European Commissions’ failure to register, process, and respond to requests for the 2016 travel expenses of EU Commissioners.
Even though requests were submitted over 5 months ago the Commission has failed to process these requests in line with EU regulation. The joint complaint highlights the Commission’s four major violations of the EU transparency rules:
(1) the failure to even register 152 of the requests;
(2) the failure to process 188 of the requests;
(3) failing to respond to 51 appeals;
(4) for outright refusals to process requests for President Juncker, the Vice President Timmermans, and Commissioners Cañete, Stylianides, and Oettinger without providing reasons according to the law.
“The behaviour of the Commission’s Secretariat General is unprecedented,” said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info, “It is violating a fundamental right in the EU treaties with its blatant refusal to process and respond to these requests.”
The campaign for access to Commissioners’ expenses has also raised serious questions about the record keeping of the EU institutions, after Access Info was told that the information was not stored in digital format meaning that preparation of documents would have to be done manually, taking 75.5 working days to find the documents, review them and redact any personal information that they might contain.
“It is shocking to the point of being barely credible that the travel costs of the EU’s top politicians is not stored in a digital format,” added Darbishire, “It is clear that significant improvements the European Commission’s record keeping are needed.”
The appeal asks the Ombudsman to recommend that the Commission not only answer the requests and provide the requested travel expenses data, but also improve its poor record keeping practices so that basic information such as how much money is spent on official trips is easily available, or could even be published proactively.