Information recording Commission's correspondence with Member States, EFSA and industry lobbies regarding the EFSA Guidance Document on the risk assessment of plant protection products on bees

Currently waiting for a response from Health and Food Safety, they should respond promptly and normally no later than (details).

Dear Health and Food Safety,

In accordance with Regulation 1049/2001, Regulation 1367/2006 as well as Article 10 of the Treaty on European Union, POLLINIS FRANCE - a French environmental NGO defending biodiversity as well as a sustainable agriculture, in order to protect bees and other pollinators in particular-, hereby requests access to the following documents and/or information in any other medium received or drawn up by the European Commission (hereinafter "Commission") :

1. Documents and/or information which record the positions of the Member States and/or the members of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed and/or the Commission and/or the European Food Safety Authority (hereinafter "EFSA") in relation to the EFSA Guidance Document on the risk assessment of plant protection products on bees (Apis mellifera, Bombus spp., solitary bees) and/or any draft EU measure dealing with the same subject-matter, received or drawn up by the Commission since October 2018 ;

2. Documents and/or information which record any communications (including minutes of meetings and other reports of these meetings as well as emails, letters, attached documents and enclosures) between the Commission and the EFSA in relation to the EFSA Guidance Document on the risk assessment of plant protection products on bees since July 2013 ;

3. A list of meetings that have taken place since July 2013 between Commission staff (limited to head of unit and above) on the one hand and representatives of individual companies (including lobby consultancies and law firms) and/or industry associations on the other hand, in which the EFSA Guidance Document on the risk assessment of plant protection products on bees and/or any draft EU measure dealing with the same subject-matter were mentioned ;

4. Minutes and other reports of these meetings ;

5. All correspondence since July 2013 (including emails, letters, attached documents and enclosures) between Commission staff (limited to head of unit level or above) on the one hand, and representatives of individual companies (including lobby consultancies and law firms) and/or industry associations on the other hand, which mention the EFSA Guidance Document on the risk assessment of plant protection products on bees and/or any draft EU measure dealing with the same subject matter.

Yours faithfully,

Mr. Nicolas Laarman
POLLINIS FRANCE
10 rue Saint-Marc
75002 Paris

Health and Food Safety

1 Attachment

 

Dear Mr Laarman,

 

Thank you for your e-mail dated 27 January 2020. We hereby acknowledge
receipt of your application for access to documents, which was registered
on 28 January 2020 under reference number GestDem 2020/0498.

 

In accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to
European Parliament, Council and Commission documents, your application
will be handled within 15 working days. The time limit will expire on 18
February 2020. In case this time limit needs to be extended, you will be
informed in due course.

 

You have lodged your application via the AsktheEU.org website. Please note
that this is a private third-party website which has no link with any
institution of the European Union. Therefore, the European Commission
cannot be held accountable for any technical issues or problems linked to
the use of this system.

 

Please note that the private third party running the AsktheEU.org website
is responsible and accountable for the processing of your personal data
via that website, and not the European Commission. For further information
on your rights, please refer to the third party’s privacy policy.

 

We understand that the third party running that website usually publishes
the content of applicants’ correspondence with the European Commission on
that website. This includes the personal data that you may have
communicated to the European Commission (e.g. your private postal
address).

 

Similarly, the third party publishes on that website any reply that the
Commission will send to the email address of the applicants generated by
the AsktheEU.org website.

 

If you do not wish your correspondence with the European Commission to be
published on the AsktheEU.org website, you can provide us with an
alternative, private e-mail address for further correspondence. In that
case, the European Commission will send all future electronic
correspondence addressed to you only to that private address.

 

 

Yours faithfully,

SANTE ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS

[1]cid:image001.gif@01D3FF48.374A49E0
European Commission
Health and Food Safety

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Health and Food Safety

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Laarman,

We refer to your e-mail dated 28 January 2020 in which you make a request
for access to documents, registered on the same date under the above
mentioned reference number.

Your application is currently being handled. However, we will not be in a
position to complete the handling of your application within the time
limit of 15 working days, which expires today [18 February 2020].

An extended time limit is needed as your application concerns a large
number of documents.

Therefore, we have to extend the time limit with 15 working days in
accordance with Article 7(3) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding
public access to documents. The new time limit expires on 10 March 2020.

We apologise for this delay and for any inconvenience this may cause.

Yours faithfully,

SANTE ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS

[1]cid:image001.gif@01D3FF48.374A49E0
European Commission
Health and Food Safety

 

 

 

 

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Health and Food Safety

2 Attachments

 

Dear Mr Laarman,

 

Please find enclosed a letter on above mentioned subject, registered under
reference Ares(2020)1066638.

Please note this document is sent electronically only.

 

 

Best regards,

 

 

[1]logo_ec_17_colors_300dpi

E4 – Pesticides and Biocides

Directorate E – Food and food safety, innovation

 

DIRECTORATE-GENERAL FOR HEALTH AND FOOD SAFETY

EUROPEAN COMMISSION

 

 

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE:
This message is intended for the use of the individual or entity to which
it is addressed and may contain information that is privileged,
confidential and exempt from disclosure under applicable law. If the
reader of this message is not the intended recipient or the employee or
agent responsible for delivering this message to the intended recipient,
you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of
this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this
communication in error, please notify us immediately by email reply

 

 

 

 

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Ref. Ares(2020)1066638

Dear Head of Unit,

We refer to your letter dated 19 Februray 2020, in which you ask us to reduce the scope of our request for access to documents sent on 27 January 2020.

Regarding this request, we decided to reduce the scope of our request by limiting it to the following documents :

« 1. Documents and/or information which record the positions of the Member States and/or the members of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed and the Commission in relation to the EFSA Guidance Document on the risk assessment of plant protection products on bees (Apis mellifera, Bombus spp., solitary bees) and/or any draft EU measure dealing with the same subject-matter, received or drawn up by the Commission since October 2018 ».

Please, confirm you have received this email.

Yours faithfully,

Mr Nicolas Laarman
POLLINIS France
10 rue Saint-Marc
75002 Paris

Health and Food Safety

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Laarman,

 

We hereby acknowledge receipt of your email of 25 February 2020, which was
registered as Ares(2020)1187624. Your request GestDem 2020/0498 will
therefore be handled taking into account the reduced scope to which you
agree in your email.

We thank you for your understanding in helping us to find a fair solution
according to Article 6(3) of regulation  (EC) No 1049/2001.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

SANTE ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS

[1]cid:image001.gif@01D3FF48.374A49E0
European Commission
Health and Food Safety

 

 

 

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Health and Food Safety

1 Attachment

 

Dear Mr Laarman,

 

The deadline for replying your access to documents request Ref GestDem No
2020/0498 expired on 10 March 2020.

 

This email is just to inform you that the reply to your request has been
prepared and is now in the workflow for validation and signature and it
will be sent to you as soon as possible.

 

Thank you very much for your understanding.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

SANTE ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS

[1]cid:image001.gif@01D3FF48.374A49E0
European Commission
Health and Food Safety

 

 

References

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ve_sante.e.4(SANTE), Health and Food Safety

2 Attachments

Message on behalf of Ms Anne Bucher to Mr Nicolas Laarman:

Dear Sir,

Please find an advance copy of our letter ref. Ares(2020)1595689 of 16 March 2020 regarding your application for access to documents GestDem 2020/0498.

Best regards,

E4 – Pesticides and Biocides
Directorate E – Food and food safety, innovation

DIRECTORATE-GENERAL FOR HEALTH AND FOOD SAFETY
EUROPEAN COMMISSION

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE:
This message is intended for the use of the individual or entity to which it is addressed and may contain information that is privileged, confidential and exempt from disclosure under applicable law. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient or the employee or agent responsible for delivering this message to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately by email reply

Dear Health and Food Safety,

POLLINIS FRANCE acknowledges the Commission’s March 16 2020 explicit refusal decision to grant access to our documents request sent on January, 27 (as reduced by our February, 25th email), as well as its implicit decision dated March, 10.

In accordance with Regulation (EC) n°1049/2001, Regulation (EC) n°1367/2006 as well as Article 10 of the Treaty on European Union, POLLINIS FRANCE hereby submits a confirmatory application (Regulation (EC) n°1049/2001 – Article 7(2)) requesting access to “documents and/or information which record the positions of the Member States and/or the members of the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed and the Commission in relation to the EFSA Guidance Document on the risk assessment of plant protection products on bees (Apis mellifera, Bombus spp., solitary bees) and/or any draft EU measure dealing with the same subject-matter, received or drawn up by the Commission since October 2018.”

We strongly disagree with the Commission’s reasoning used to dismiss our request for documents, on the following grounds :

a) There are no grounds for refusal

Article 4(3), second subparagraph, of Regulation (EC) n°1049/2001 prohibits the disclosure of documents containing opinions for internal use as part of deliberations and preliminary consultations within the institution, “if disclosure would seriously undermine the institution's decision-making process”.
However, the disclosure of the aforementioned documents would not undermine the institution’s decision-making process.

The Commission claims that public release of the emails containing Member State positions on the Bee Guidance Document is contrary to the comitology rules of procedure (Standard Rules of Procedure for Standing Committees, adopted pursuant to Article 9 of Regulation (EC) n°182/2011) which explicitly exclude the disclosure of positions of individual Member States. Furthermore, the Commission argues that the disclosure of Member State positions would impact the mutual trust between each Member State and significantly increase the risk of external pressure on the representatives of Member States in the Standing Committee.

The basis for the adoption of the comitology rules of procedure is Article 9 of the Comitology Regulation. However, there is no provision in the Comitology Regulation which states that summary records shall not contain the individual positions expressed by Member State representatives within the scope of committee proceedings. Nor is there any other provision in the Comitology Regulation, which would impose confidentiality requirements on committee proceedings. On the contrary, Recital 19 of that Regulation makes it clear that public access to information on committee proceedings should be ensured in accordance with the EU law on public access to documents.

This means that the confidentiality provisions in the comitology rules of procedure, most notably Article 10(2) (stating that summary records of meetings shall not mention the individual position of the members in the committee’s discussions) and Article 13(2) (stating that the committee's discussions shall be confidential), are not themselves founded in the Comitology Regulation.

In light of the above, POLLINIS holds the view that the disclosure of Member State positions on the Bee Guidance Document is not contrary to the Comitology Regulation.

b) There is an overriding public interest in the disclosure of the documents

The exception provided by Article 4(3), second subparagraph, of Regulation (EC) n°1049/2001 must be waived if there is an overriding public interest to disclose a document. Such an interest must, firstly, be public and, secondly, outweigh the harm the disclosure may cause.

Our request clearly falls under the public interest for disclosure, contrary to the Commission’s decision.
According to the Commission’s March, 16 refusal to grant access to the documents, “the protection of ongoing decision-making process in this particular stage, especially the confidentiality of Member States positions expressed under the comitology procedure, prevails over the public interest of disclosure.”

POLLINIS’ request is submitted in a context in which more than 75% of flying insect biomass have vanished from German protected areas, according to an article by Caspar A. Hallmann and his peers. In January 2020, 25 scientists from the Alliance of World Scientists published a manifesto to warn on insect extinctions, underlining that “pesticides are key drivers of insect declines due to their intensive use, as well as inappropriate risk assessment regulation”. Moreover, the EU Parliament has recently called for both reduction in use of pesticides and improvement in pesticide risk assessment to protect pollinators (Resolution n°2019/2803 of 18 December 2019 on the EU Pollinators Initiative).

Disclosing these documents allows for public participation in such fundamental matters, in accordance with Article 1 of the Treaty on European Union, which states that EU decisions must be taken “as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen”, as well as with article 10 of the Treaty, which states that “every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union”, since transparency on Member State positions would allow EU citizens to understand why the EFSA Bee Guidance Document has been discussed at least 26 times in the Standing Committee on plants, Animals, Food and Feed meetings since 2013 without reaching any agreement.

Moreover, the Commission’s refusal creates a situation in which Member States are not accountable to their citizens, which represents a threat to the democratic process.

POLLINIS FRANCE has already taken action through the European Ombudsman to gain access to similar documents. The Ombudsman states clear recommendations in favour of POLLINIS’ arguments in its Recommendation in case 2142/2018/TE on the European Commission’s refusal to grant access to Member State positions, regarding a guidance document concerning the risk assessment of pesticides on bees.

In its recommendation, the Ombudsman warns that the exception invoked by the Commission to refuse public access to the positions of Member States representatives must be applied restrictively, and that “the Commission should grant public access to the requested documents, showing positions of the Member States on the draft bee guidance”.

This restrictive approach in the exceptions to the right of the public to access information regarding environmental matters stems from Regulation (EC) n°1367/2006 which states : “The grounds for refusal as regards access to environmental information should be interpreted in a restrictive way, taking into account the public interest served by disclosure and whether the information requested relates to emissions in the environment.”

The Ombudsman takes the view that the documents sought by POLLINIS should benefit from the wider access granted to “legislative documents” under the EU law on public access to documents, as the documents sought by POLLINIS contain essential information as to why a guidance document, which constitutes a crucial measure to improve the evaluation of the impact of pesticides on pollinators, has not been adopted by the Commission since 2013.

In addition, the Commission states that “the adoption process of the Bee Guidance Document is characterised by significant degree of difficulty and complexity. The Bee Guidance Document is under pending discussions for more than 6 years now and the possibility to have frank discussion with Member States, without external pressure, is crucial for its final adoption.”

However, the Commission does not demonstrate how Member State representatives would be subject to external pressure in the event of disclosure of the documents, nor has it shown how, if any pressure were imposed, the capacity of Member States to act fully independently would be affected.

Finally, the Commission has not demonstrated “that disclosure would seriously affect, prolong or complicate the proper conduct of the decision-making.”

For all the above reasons, we ask you to grant access to our documents request sent on January, 27, as reduced by our February, 25 email.

Yours faithfully,

Mr. Nicolas Laarman
POLLINIS FRANCE
10 rue Saint-Marc
75002 Paris