EU-Ombudsman decides: Public figures should expect a high degree of transparency about their professional competence
Madrid/Brussels, 10 May 2016 – In an important Decision from the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly has said that data relating to the professional competence and activities of public figures, especially those appointed to a high level public posts, may not require the same level of protection as might apply to personal data in other circumstances.
Access Info Europe and the HEC-NYU EU Public Interest Clinic welcomed the Ombudsman’s Decision on their complaint about the lack of transparency in the selection process for judges to the European Union Court of Justice (ECJ).
“The public has a right to know if the judges who are appointed to the ECJ with the power to interpret EU laws are the best possible candidates for the job,” stated Helen Darbishire, Executive Director at Access Info Europe.
“The EU Ombudsman’s decision rejects the rationale invoked by the Council to refuse the disclosure of the assessment of EU top judges: to protect their reputation. The decision clearly states that EU court’s members being public figures they should expect a high degree of transparency about their professional competence during the process of judicial selection” stated Alberto Alemanno, Founder and Director of HEC-NYU EU Public Interest Clinic.
In her decision, the Ombudsman said that “openness and transparency as regards such personal data … serve to generate trust and confidence in the appointment process, and in the capabilities of the persons actually appointed to high level posts, whilst at the same time striking the right balance with the need to protect personal data.”
Another important outcome of this complaint is that during the course of the Ombudsman’s inquiry, the Council of the EU recognized that the right of access to documents and specifically Regulation 1049/2001 does apply to all documents that are held by the Council in relation to the performance of tasks of support to various intergovernmental bodies or entities, including the report about the suitability of the judicial candidates, something that it had previously denied.
Access Info and the Public Interest Clinic have therefore made a repeat request to the Council. A first reply from the Council, received on the same day as the Ombudsman published her final decision, regrettably only grants partial access to the documents (leaving aside all information relating to the suitability of the candidates), something which the two organizations plan to appeal.
For more information, please contact:
Helen Darbishire | Access Info Europe
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Alberto Alemanno | HEC-NYU EU Public Interest Clinic
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