C(2017) 5273 final
Access Info Europe
Calle Cava de San Miguel 8, 4c
DECISION OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL ON BEHALF OF THE COMMISSION PURSUANT
TO ARTICLE 4 OF THE IMPLEMENTING RULES TO REGULATION (EC) N° 1049/20011
Your confirmatory application for access to documents under
Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 – Gestdem 2017/4129
Dear Ms Darbishire,
I refer to:
- the Access Info Europe
on-line campaign on Commissioners' travel expenses
(https://www.access-info.org/commissioners-expenses launched on 25 January
2017. Through that campaign, access was requested, under Article 6(1) of
Regulation 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council
and Commission documents2 ('Regulation 1049/2001'), to individual cost
statements relating to all missions carried out by the Members of the Commission
- your corresponding confirmatory application under Article 7(2) of Regulation
1049/2001 of 13 March 2017, contesting inter alia
the lack of an initial reply.
Official Journal L 345 of 29.12.2001, p. 94.
2 Official Journal L 145 of 31.5.2001, p. 43.
Commission européenne/Europese Commissie, 1049 Bruxelles/Brussel, BELGIQUE/BELGIË - Tel. +32 22991111
SCOPE OF YOUR REQUEST
In each of the 196 separate parts of the above-mentioned campaign, received between 25
January 2017 and 28 February 2017, access was requested:
[…]under the same circumstances and with the same arguments put forward in
requests GESTDEM 2016/5975, 2016/6006, 2016/6010, 2016/6050, […] to the
The travel expenses of Commissioner [….], for the [two-month] period […], as
contained in the relevant mission summary fiches/settlement of mission expenses.
Taken together, these separate parts would cover, for each of the 28 Commissioners, the
period from 1 January 2016 until 31 December 2016.
The Secretariat-General of the Commission sent you a first holding reply on 15 February
2017. As the request concerned a very large number of documents, we subsequently sent
you, on 27 February 2017, a proposal for a fair solution in the meaning of Article 6(3) of
Regulation 1049/2001. On 8 June 2017, as the treatment of the request took more time
than expected, we sent you a second holding reply, inviting you to post it on the Access
1.1. Proposal for a fair solution
In the above-mentioned proposal for a fair solution of 27 February 2017, the Commission
invited you to narrow down the scope of your request to a two-month period of your
choice in 2015 or 2016.
Indeed, as explained in that proposal for a fair solution, it was the first time that the
Commission received such a large number of similarly worded 'requests', on a similar
subject matter, during such a short period of time (the majority of the requests were
submitted during the first three days of the campaign).
The proposal for a fair solution therefore explained that, due to the large number of
documents falling under the scope of the request, it would not be possible to handle the
request within the statutory deadlines provided for in Regulation 1049/2001. In this
context, we provided a detailed calculation regarding the estimated workload (in terms of
number of working days) required for every step of the process.
You rejected that proposal by message of 9 March 2017, inter alia
request that the Commission cover the full, 12-month scope of the campaign.
1.2. Consequence of the failure to reach a fair solution: unilateral restriction
of the scope of your request
Article 6(3) of Regulation 1049/2001 states that, in case of an application relating to a
very long document or to a very large number of documents, the institution may confer
with the applicant informally, with a view to finding a fair solution
However, as the Court recently confirmed in its recent Strack
judgment3, in case such a
fair solution cannot be reached, the institution has a right to unilaterally restrict the scope
of the application to an amount of documents that can be handled within the statutory
deadlines. Indeed, as stated by the Court, it flows from the principle of proportionality
that the institutions may, in particular cases in which the volume of documents for which
access is applied or in which the number of passages to be censured would involve an
inappropriate administrative burden, balance the interest of the applicant for access
against the workload resulting from the processing of the application for access in
order to safeguard the interests of good administration.
Thus, an institution may, in exceptional circumstances, refuse access to certain
documents on the ground that the workload relating to their disclosure would be
disproportionate as compared to the objectives set by the application for access to those
documents. However, reliance on the principle of proportionality cannot allow the time-
limits laid down by Regulation No 1049/2001 to be changed without creating a situation
of legal uncertainty
Furthermore, in its Ryanair
judgment4, the General Court5 confirmed that Article 6(3)
may not be evaded by splitting an application into several, seemingly separate, parts.
As stated by the Court in the above-mentioned case law, the Commission needs to
respect the principle of proportionality and ensure that the interest of the applicant for
access is balanced against the workload resulting from the processing of the application
for access in order to safeguard the interests of good administration
Accordingly, and in line with the earlier replies already provided on the same subject
matter, the Commission has decided to restrict the temporal scope of the 'requests', taken
together as one, to the months of January and February 2016. This balances the interest
of the applicant for access against the workload resulting from the processing of the
application for access and, in so doing, safeguards the interests of good administration.
The above-mentioned temporal scope (January-February 2016) corresponds to the one
relied on in the context of your earlier access request on the same subject, relating to
Commissioner Jourová's mission cost statements.
Against this background, the following documents have been identified:
257 summary cost statements relating to the missions effected during the period 1
January 2016 – 29 February 2016 by the President, Vice-Presidents and
Commissioners then in office.
3 Judgment of the Court of 2 October 2014 in Case C-127/13, Guido Strack v Commission
ECLI:EU:C:2014:2250, paragraphs 27-28.
4 Judgment of the General Court of 10 December 2010 in Case T-494/08, Ryanair v Commission
ECLI:EU:T:2010:511, paragraph 34.
5 Then 'Court of First Instance'.
1.3. Your wish that the Commission deal with all 196 parts of the campaign
In your above-mentioned message of 9 March 2017, you insisted that the Commission
deal with all 196 parts of your campaign, to which you referred as 'individual
I would like to recall in this respect that, through the above-mentioned campaign
launched on 25 January 2017, Access Info Europe
invited citizens via a dedicated website
to submit, under Regulation 1049/2001, parts of its request for access to individual
mission cost statements of all Commissioners, presented to the Commission as (pre-
prepared) individual 'initial applications'.
By 28 February 2017, the Commission had received 196 such 'requests' (including 28
duplicates), the large majority of which were launched in the first three days of the
campaign). Each of these 'requests' covered the mission cost statements relating to the
missions carried out by a given Commissioner during a two-month period.
From your above-mentioned correspondence with the Secretariat-General, I understand
that you consider that those 196 'requests' should be registered and replied to separately.
However, as clearly transpires from the above-mentioned website and from your
correspondence with the Commission and its services, these 'requests' are undoubtedly
part of a campaign. The objective of that campaign seems to be, to obtain more pro-
active publication of information about Commissioners' mission costs by the
Indeed, the specific campaign website which Access Info Europe
set up for that purpose,
entitled Our campaign to make transparent the travel expenses of EU Commissioners
states that: Citizens have a right to know how public funds are spent, yet until recently
the travel costs for official trips by EU Commissioners was not public. Access Info has
now won the right to access this information! Help us get all travel expenses of all EU
Commissioners for 2016 by submitting a request
In this context, it is also important to note that, in December 2016 and January 2017, Access Info Europe
had already received mission cost statements regarding six
Commissioners (President Juncker, First Vice-President Timmermans and
Commissioners Oettinger, Cañete, Stylianides, Jourová), following earlier requests for
access to documents submitted (with the exception of one request) by Access Info
Following the Commission's positive reply to the latter requests, Access Info Europe
6 Under reference numbers GestDem
2016/5975, 2016/5981, 2016/6006, 2016/6010 (this request was
not submitted by Access Info Europe but was sent from an e-mail address generated by Access Info
's website Ask the EU
, and is therefore publicly accessible on the latter website) and 2016/6050.
- contacted the Commission's Secretariat-General (unit B4) on 20 December 2016,
making reference to one of those earlier access requests, and asking whether, in
the event that other people would submit similar requests, they would receive a
- launched the above-mentioned campaign on 25 January 2017, inviting citizens to
submit, via dedicated website, pre-prepared initial requests for access under
Regulation 1049/2001 to individual Commissioners' mission cost statements for
- sent, in parallel, a letter to First Vice-President Timmermans, on 31 January 2017,
calling for pro-active publication of detailed information regarding
Commissioners' mission expenditure. I am responding separately and in parallel
to this letter.
Indeed, you split your current request into several quasi-simultaneous requests,
articulated in such a way that, taken together, they cover a far wider scope than each of
the above-mentioned earlier requests, both in terms of content and temporal scope7. Your
wide-scope request, misleadingly presented as separate 'applications', thereby trying to
evade the requirements of Article 6(3) of Regulation 1049/2001, covers all
Commissioners' mission cost statements relating to missions carried out in 2016 and
potentially amounts to thousands of documents.
THE COMMISSION'S ASSESSMENT UNDER REGULATION 1049/2001
Following the Commission's assessment, wide partial access is granted to all 257 mission
summary fiches identified (covering all Commissioners' missions in January and
February 2016, except those of Commissioner Jourová, for which the summary fiches
were already released following your above-mentioned earlier request).
Please find copies of the documents annexed. You may reuse the documents requested
free of charge for non-commercial and commercial purposes, provided that the source is
acknowledged and that you do not distort the original meaning or message of the
document. Please note that the Commission does not assume liability stemming from the
As was the case for the Commission's replies to the above-mentioned earlier requests, the
undisclosed parts of the documents:
- are either covered by the exception concerning protection of privacy and the
integrity of the individual, provided for in Article 4(1)(b) of Regulation
1049/2001, as explained below; or
7As mentioned on your website: 'We launched our crowd-sourced Commissioner Travel Expenses
Campaign on Thursday 26 January 2016. Via the click of a button, citizens are able to send 168 requests
for the spending of all 28 Commissioners for two month periods in 2016.'
- contain information falling outside the scope of your request, i.e. going beyond
the requested information to be able to ascertain how much was spent by each
Commissioner on each mission
[and representation cost] they have undertaken.
Consequently, this additional information (such as such as details regarding the
documentation provided, the reimbursement limits applied in specific cases, etc.)
has also been redacted.
The mission summary fiches contain the names, surnames and telephone numbers of
Commission staff members not holding senior management positions, or of external
These are undoubtedly personal data in the meaning of Article 2(a) of Regulation
45/20018. It follows that public disclosure of the above-mentioned information would
constitute processing (transfer) of personal data within the meaning of Article 8(b) of
In the recent judgment in the ClientEarth
case, the Court of Justice ruled that whoever
requests such a transfer must first establish that it is necessary. If it is demonstrated to be
necessary, it is then for the institution concerned to determine that there is no reason to
assume that that transfer might prejudice the legitimate interests of the data subject. If
there is no such reason, the transfer requested must be made, whereas, if there is such a
reason, the institution concerned must weigh the various competing interests in order to
decide on the request for access
9. I refer also to the Strack
case, where the Court of
Justice ruled that the Institution does not have to examine by itself the existence of a need
for transferring personal data10.
In your application, you do not establish the necessity of having the data in question
Furthermore, based on the information available, it cannot be presumed that the
legitimate interests of the individuals concerned would not be prejudiced by the release
of the personal data concerned.
Therefore, the use of the exception under Article 4(1)(b) of Regulation 1049/2001 is
justified, as there is no need to publicly disclose the personal data in question, and it
cannot be assumed that the legitimate rights of the data subjects concerned would not be
prejudiced by such disclosure.
8 Regulation (EC) No 45/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2000 on
the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by the Community
institutions and bodies and on the free movement of such data.
9 Judgment of 16 July 2015, ClientEarth v EFSA
, C-615/13P, EU:C:2015:489, paragraph 47.
10 Judgment of 2 October 2014, Strack v Commission
, C-127/13 P, EU:C:2014:2250, paragraph 106.
As explained above, the access which is granted is partial access in the meaning of
Article 4(6) of Regulation 1049/2001. No further access is possible without undermining
the interests referred to above.
NO OVERRIDING PUBLIC INTEREST IN DISCLOSURE
The exception provided for in Article 4(1)(b) of Regulation 1049/2001 does not require
any assessment of the possible existence of an overriding public interest in disclosure.
MEANS OF REDRESS
Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the means of redress that are available
against this decision, that is, judicial proceedings and complaints to the Ombudsman
under the conditions specified respectively in Articles 263 and 228 of the Treaty on the
Functioning of the European Union.
I would be grateful if you would post this decision on the Access Info Europe
order to allow all interested parties in the campaign to take note of it.
For the Commission