Ref. Ares(2019)3652692 - 06/06/2019
OFFICE FOR THE ADMINISTRATION AND PAYMENT OF INDIVIDUAL ENTITLEMENTS
The Acting Director
Mrs Patricia González
Calle Cava San Miguel, 8,
28005 Madrid, Spain
Your application for access to documents under Regulation (EC) No
1049/2001 - GESTDEM 2019/2761
Dear Mrs González,
We refer to your email dated 10.5.2019, in which you make a request for access to
documents, registered on the same day under the above-mentioned reference number.
You request access to documents which contain the following information: “payment of
expenses on the mission of commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis to Millefeuille from 19 to
24 August 2018. Namely confirmation of the modes of transport reported under travel
costs (with the amount for each) and details of the place of accommodation, and
documents confirming that the reported accommodation costs of €695 were all for
You also wish to obtain documents relating to “this “French Language course” such as
documents that demonstrate that Commissioners are permitted to charge travel to
language courses as part of their mission expenses”.
Finally, you seek to obtain
“documents relating to the payment for the language course (including the decision to
pay for it, and the total amount spent on it), at least to the extent that it was paid for by
the European Commission”
Firstly, I would like to note that, in accordance with the code of conduct for the Members of
the European Commission1, Commissioners have the obligation ‘to conduct missions in
compliance with the rules in the Financial Regulation, the internal rules on the
implementation of the general budget of the European Union, the Guide to Missions and the
rules set out in Annex 2. A mission is defined as travel in the exercise of his or her duties by
Commission Decision of 31.1.2018, C(2018)700 final, Article 6(2).
European Commission - B-1049 Brussels – Belgium - Telephone: (32-2) 299 11 11
Office: MERO 09/P074- Telephone: direct line (32-2) 295 27 99
a Member away from the Commission's place of work’ solely in the interests of the service,
on the instructions of a line manager or the appointing authority.
Moreover, the code of conduct for the Members of the European Commission provides that
‘[f]or reasons of transparency, the [European] Commission will publish an overview of
mission expenses per Member every two months covering all missions undertaken unless
publication of this information would undermine the protection of the public interest as
regards public security, defence and military matters, international relations or the
financial, monetary or economic policy of the Union or a Member State.’2
Under the code of good administrative behaviour, I would like to note that pursuant to the
regulatory framework for mission expenses,3 all official travel is undertaken in the most
cost-efficient way possible, according to the needs of the mission. For instance, officials are
indeed required to book hotel rooms within strict price limits (per country or city) and the
cheapest transportation option available on the market at the time of the purchase. Any
derogation from these guidelines can only be granted under exceptional and duly justified
The code of conduct entered into force on 1 February 2018. Accordingly, since 28 February
2018, information pertaining to the mission costs of the Members of the Commission has
been proactively published every two months.
Against this background, the information pertaining to the mission costs of Commissioner
Valdis Dombrovskis for the mentioned period is available under the link below:
Secondly, having examined your request under the provisions of Regulation (EC) No
1049/2001 regarding public access to documents, I regret to inform you that access to the
documents requested cannot be granted, as disclosure is prevented by an exception to the
right of access laid down in Article 4 of this Regulation.
Pursuant to Article 4(1)(b) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, access to a document has to
be refused if its disclosure would undermine the protection of privacy and the integrity of
the individual, in particular in accordance with European Union legislation regarding the
protection of personal data.
The applicable legislation in this field is Regulation (EU) 2018/1725 of the European
Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2018 on the protection of natural persons with
regard to the processing of personal data by the Union institutions, bodies, offices and
agencies and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Regulation (EC) No 45/2001
and Decision No 1247/2002/EC (‘Regulation 2018/1725’).
In the recent Psara judgment, the General Court reiterated that Article 4(1)(b) ‘is an
indivisible provision [which] requires that any undermining of privacy and the integrity of
the individual must always be examined and assessed in conformity with the legislation of
the Union concerning the protection of personal data, in particular with Regulation No
In addition to the above-mentioned Code of Conduct for Members of the Commission, see
Commission decision of 18.11.2008, ‘General implementing provisions adopting the Guide to
missions for officials and other servants of the European Commission’, C(2008)6215.
45/2001’ and that ‘[it] establishes a specific and reinforced system of protection of a person
whose personal data could, in certain cases, be communicated to the public […]’.4
Furthermore, the General Court reaffirmed that no automatic priority can be conferred on
the objective of transparency over the right to protection of personal data.5
Notwithstanding the fact that this judgment referred to Regulation No 45/2001, it applies by
analogy to Regulation No 2018/1725, as, in principle, the rest of the case law pertaining to
Article 3(1) of Regulation No 2018/1725 provides that personal data ‘means any
information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person […]’. The Court of Justice
ruled that any information that, due to its content, purpose or effect, is linked to a particular
person, qualifies as personal data.6
In the Rechnungshof case law, the Court of Justice further confirmed that ‘there is no reason
of principle to justify excluding activities of a professional […] nature from the notion of
The General Court also stressed that ‘[t]he Court previously held that derogations from the
protection of personal data must be interpreted strictly’.8
The documents falling under the scope of your request contain information concerning
identified natural persons, namely Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis and they 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.
The General Court reaffirmed in the Psara judgment that ‘[t]he fact that data concerning the
persons in question are closely linked to public data on those persons […] does not mean at
all that those data can no longer be characterised as personal data, within the meaning of
Article 2(a) of Regulation No 45/2001’.9
The public disclosure of these personal data would consequently constitute processing
(transfer) of personal data within the meaning of Article 9(1) (b) of Regulation No
Pursuant to this provision, ‘personal data shall only be transmitted to recipients established
in the Union other than Union institutions and bodies if […] the recipient establishes that it
is necessary to have the data transmitted for a specific purpose in the public interest and the
controller, where there is any reason to assume that the data subject’s legitimate interests
might be prejudiced, establishes that it is proportionate to transmit the personal data for that
specific purpose after having demonstrably weighed the various competing interests’. Only
if both of these conditions are fulfilled and the processing constitutes lawful processing in
accordance with the requirements of Article 5 of Regulation No 2018/1725, can the
transmission of personal data occur.
Judgment of 25 September 2018, Maria Psara and Others v European Parliament
, T-639/15 to T-
666/15 and T-94/16, EU:T:2018:602, paragraph 65, (hereafter ‘the Psara judgment’).
5 Ibid, paragraph 91.
Judgment of 20 December 2017, C-434/16, Peter Novak v Data Protection Commissioner
EU:T:2018:560, paragraphs 33-35
Judgment of 20 May 2003, C-465/00, C-138/01 and C-139/01, Rechnungshof v Österreichischer
Rundfunk and others
, EU:C:2003:294, paragraph
judgment, op. cit.
, paragraph 68.
judgment, paragraph 52.
According to settled case law, the condition of necessity laid down in Article 9(1)(b) of
Regulation No 2018/1725 requires the demonstration by the applicant that the transfer of
personal data is the most appropriate of the possible measures for attaining his/her objective,
and that it is proportionate to that objective.’10
Furthermore, the applicant needs to provide convincing evidence in order to establish the
need for the transfer of personal data, and not make use of general considerations relating to
the public interest and rights to transparency and information.11
In your request, you do not put forward any arguments to establish the necessity to have the
data transmitted for a specific purpose in the public interest. Therefore, the European
Commission does not have to examine whether there is a reason to assume that the data
subjects’ legitimate interests might be prejudiced.
Furthermore, I consider that the transfer of the personal data of Commissioner Valdis
Dombrovskis contained in the requested documents, would go beyond what is necessary for
attaining the objective of ensuring the transparency of the costs pertaining to the mission,
and is therefore disproportionate to that purpose.
Therefore, I conclude that the transfer of personal data contained in the requested
documents does not fulfil the requirement of lawfulness provided for in Article 5 of
Regulation No 2018/1725.
Consequently, I conclude that, pursuant to Article 4(1)(b) of Regulation (EC) No
1049/2001, access cannot be granted to the personal data, as the need to obtain access
thereto for a purpose in the public interest has not been substantiated and there is no reason
to think that the legitimate interests of the individual concerned would not be prejudiced by
disclosure of the personal data.
The fact that Article 4(1)(b) of Regulation No 1049/2001 is an absolute exception that does
not require the institution to balance the exception defined therein against a possible public
interest in disclosure, only reinforces this conclusion.
The exceptions laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 must be waived if there is an
overriding public interest in disclosure. Such an interest must, firstly, be public and,
secondly, outweigh the harm caused by disclosure.
Nevertheless, please note that Article 4(1)(b) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 does not
include the possibility for the exceptions defined therein to be set aside by an overriding
In accordance with Article 4(6) of Regulation No 1049/2001, I have considered the
possibility of granting partial access to the documents requested. However, for the reasons
explained above, no meaningful partial access is possible without undermining the interest
of privacy and the integrity of the individual protected under Article 4(1)(b) of Regulation
In accordance with Article 7(2) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, you are entitled to make
a confirmatory application requesting the Commission to review this position.
10 Judgment of 15 July 2015, Dennekamp v Parliament
, T-115/13, EU:T:2015:497, paragraph 77.
judgment, paragraphs 73-76.
Such a confirmatory application should be addressed within 15 working days upon receipt
of this letter to the Secretariat-General of the Commission at the following address:
Transparency, Document Management and Access to Documents (SG.C.1)
or by email to: email@example.com
Electronically signed on 06/06/2019 16:41 (UTC+02) in accordance with article 4.2 (Validity of electronic documents) of Commission Decision 2004/563