Madrid, 27 January 2020 – The European Ombudsman has accepted two complaints from Access Info against the refusal by the European Commission to provide information about the exact nature of “miscellaneous” travel expenses claimed by various Commissioners, including former Commission President Jean Claude Juncker’s spending of €8,320 while at the G20 in Buenos Aires in November 2018.
The Commission has argued that it cannot give the details of what the funds were spent on because it would violate the privacy of the Commissioners, something that Access Info is challenging.
The other mystery spending which the Commission includes how Commissioner Cecilia Malmström was able to spend €775.14 in travel costs for participating in a video conference in Brussels on 4 April 2018.
“The documents falling under the scope of your request … reveal in a detailed manner how, where and when the Commissioner spent these amounts. Therefore, they undoubtedly consist of information that qualifies as personal data.” – European Commission
Access Info was also denied access, on grounds of privacy, to documents justifying the payment of travel to French courses in Provence, France, in August 2018, by Commissioners Vera Jourova and Valdis Dombrovskis.
“We simply cannot see how spending of public funds while on official business during high profile trips could possibly constitute privacy,” said Helen Darbishire from Access Info. “And even if it were for, say, security or medical costs, then why not just tell us that?”
“For the French courses in Provence, the amounts are not high – €3,543 and €2,536 respectively – and Access Info just wanted to know what the rules on language courses are. How this can be privacy still baffles us,” added Darbishire.
Access Info has called on the European Ombudsman to look into the original documents and to determine whether the justification of privacy is valid. Access Info argues that any spending of public funds on public business should be public, with only the most limited exceptions where genuinely necessary to protect legitimate interests.
Access Info has been campaigning to obtain transparency of the spending of European Commissioners’ on travel since 2014. In September 2017 the Commission agreed to publish this information proactively. In early 2018 publication of basic data was made available, although it’s rather hard to find online. There is also no retroactive publication.
Admissibility of Access Info complaints by the European Ombudsman are available here:
Complaint 1995/2019/MIG concerning three requests for public access to documents related to business trips of Commissioners and the expenses that Commissioners may incur while on a business trip
Complaint 2165/2019/FP concerning the European Commission’s refusal of public access to documents regarding miscellaneous expenses of Commission President Juncker (on EC mission to Buenos Aires) and the manner in which travel costs are registered and published by the Commission
For more information, please contact:
Helen Darbishire, Executive Director | Access Info Europe
email@example.com | +34 667685319
Paula Domínguez, Communications Officer | Access Info Europe
firstname.lastname@example.org | +34 913 656 558