Travel expenses of FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty

The request was successful.

Dear European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights,

Under the right of access to documents in the EU treaties, as developed in Regulation 1049/2001, I am hereby requesting access to the travel expenses of FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty, for the period 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2016 inclusive.

I am looking for documents that contain, for each of the trips, the following information:
- Place of origin and destination, and the amount spent on travel or transportation;
- Exact dates and duration of the trip;
- Amount spent on accommodation;
- Amount spent on subsistence;
- Other information, such as possible miscellaneous costs.

If the travel was by air taxi and a team of people were travelling, please also provide documents with details on the other travellers (at a minimum, names and job titles).

With respect to personal information contained in any documents that you might have, I note that the only information being sought here is the name and surname of FRA's Director, something which is already in the public domain. This request does not seek access to any other personal information such as bank account details. Nor am I requesting data such as the office addresses, signatures or telephone numbers of FRA staff members.

I remain at your disposition to answer any questions or clarifications you might have related to this request.

Thank you in advance.

Yours faithfully,

Luisa Izuzquiza
Access Info Europe

FRA - Documents, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

Vienna, 04/01/2018
Ref: 2018-outgoing- 000001

Dear Ms Izuzquiza,

Thank you for your access to documents request.
We hereby acknowledge receipt of your application for access to documents, registered 04 January 2018, under reference number 2018-outgoing- 000001.

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 23 January 2018. In case this time limit needs to be extended, you will be informed in due course.

Yours faithfully,
FRA Documents

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FIKATAS Nikolaos (FRA), European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

Dear Ms Izuzquiza,

Thank you for your public access to documents request to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) via AsktheEU.org website.

We would like to inform you that applications made under Regulation 1049/2001 are submitted through the Agency's website. This enables the FRA to ensure that requests are made in a precise manner and contain, in particular, sufficient elements to enable the FRA to identify that the applicant is a citizen or resident of the Union (Article 2 (1) - Beneficiaries and Scope - Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001).

Please kindly submit again your request through the website link below, where you will be able to complete the online form: http://fra.europa.eu/en/about-fra/regist... or http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files... , as publicised.

You can also directly contact the FRA access to documents team via email: [FRA request email]

As soon as the Agency receives your application as indicated above, the Agency will deal with your application within a maximum of fifteen working days, unless that period is extended on the conditions laid down in the Regulation.

For more information relating to Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 and other methods available to access documents held by FRA, please find under the following link: http://fra.europa.eu/en/about-fra/regist...

Kind regards

FRA Documents

Nikolaos FIKATAS
Head of Sector ICT and Facilities
Corporate Services Department
European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights
Schwarzenbergplatz 11
1040 Vienna, Austria
Tel: +43 1 58030 646
Email: [email address]
Visit us on: http://fra.europa.eu | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube |LinkedIn

Helping to make fundamental rights a reality for everyone in the European Union

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Dear European Union Fundamental Rights Agency,

Please pass this on to the person who reviews confirmatory applications.

I am filing a confirmatory application with regards to my access to documents request ‘Travel expenses of FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty’.

On 28 December 2017 I filed an access to documents request asking for “the travel expenses of FRA Director Michael O’Flaherty, for the period 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2016 inclusive.”

On 3 January 2018 the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) acknowledged my request and registered it under reference number 2018-outgoing- 000001.

Later on 3 January 2018, FRA sent a second message requesting that I “kindly submit again your request through the website link below, where you will be able to complete the online form: http://fra.europa.eu/en/about-fra/regist... or http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files... , as publicised.”

FRA also states in this message: “As soon as the Agency receives your application as indicated above, the Agency will deal with your application within a maximum of fifteen working days, unless that period is extended on the conditions laid down in the Regulation.”

In this regard, I consider that:

I. FRA’s request that I resubmit my initial access to documents request (reference number 2018-outgoing- 000001) via the online form provided by the Agency constitutes a de facto refusal to process my request.

As such, FRA is currently violating my fundamental human right of access to EU documents as enshrined in both Article 42 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and Article 15 of the Treaty of Functioning of the European Union.

This refusal also constitutes a violation of Article 7 of Regulation 1049/2001, which states that, after the having sent an acknowledgement of receipt to the applicant, and within 15 working days from registration of the application, the institution shall “either grant access to the document requested and provide access in accordance with Article 10 within that period or, in a written reply, state the reasons for the total or partial refusal and inform the applicant of his or her right to make a confirmatory application in accordance with paragraph 2 of this Article.”

By de facto refusing to process my initial access to documents request, FRA is neither granting me access to the documents requested or stating any reasons for a partial or total refusal, therefore failing to comply with its obligation to do so.

II. FRA’s suggested means by which I am asked to resubmit my request is out of line with the European Ombudsman’s Decision in case in case 682/2014/JF of 19 December 2017.

The online form provided by FRA requires as mandatory the following fields of information:
Address
Postcode
Town/city
Country of residence

The European Ombudsman’s Decision in the above mentioned case clearly states that the requirement that persons who ask for public access to documents provide their postal address is “disrespectful of citizens and their fundamental rights under the EU Charter.” According to the European Ombudsman, this practice constitutes “maladministration”.

I am therefore hereby challenging FRA’s refusal to process my initial access to documents request, and urging FRA to:

- Rectify its request that I should resubmit my access to documents request via the provided online form, and instead process my initial request in compliance with its obligations under Regulation 1049/2001; and
- Fully respect the European Ombudsman’s Decision in case in case 682/2014/JF by not requiring applicants to file an access to documents requests via any means that require a postal address as a prerequisite to be able to exercise the fundamental human right of access to EU documents.

A full history of my request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.asktheeu.org/en/request/trav...

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any clarification in regards to any aspect of this confirmatory application.

Thank you in advance.

Yours faithfully,

Luisa Izuzquiza
Access Info Europe

FRA - Documents, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

1 Attachment

 

Vienna, 23 January 2018

Ref: 2018-outgoing-000032

 

Subject:         Access to documents request - Travel expenses of FRA
Director Michael O’Flaherty - reference number 2018-outgoing- 000001. 

 

Dear Ms Izuzquiza,

 

We refer to your request registered on 4 January 2018, in which you make a
request for access to documents.

 

Please find attached a reply to your application registered under the
above mentioned reference number, along with the disclosed documents.

 

Kind regards,

 

Keep track of what’s coming up in 2018 with [1]FRA’s events & publications
calendar

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Dear Fundamental Rights Agency,

Many thanks for the letter from your Head of Management Services, Mr Constantinos Manolopoulos. In regard to the documents requested and to which I’ve been granted access, I could not find ‘document 1’ enclosed. Could you please send it to me again?

Thank you very much in advance for this.

On a separate note, I would like to make a clarification on a particular aspect of your letter, i.e.: the Agency’s perceived notion of Access Info Europe giving differential treatment to the Agency in comparison with other EU institutions.

I am very sorry to hear FRA is under this impression, as it is by all means far from being accurate.

Access Info Europe’s mission, as stated in the organisation’s statutes, is to defend and promote the right of access to information in Europe. Accordingly, for more than 10 years, Access Info has led numerous campaigns and actions at the EU level – before its institutions and agencies – whenever we have come across what we believe to be a violation of the fundamental right of access to EU documents.

This has included in the past, and currently includes, campaigning for the correct and/or improved implementation of Regulation (EU) 1049/2001 by the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, and many of the EU agencies. We also frequently litigate against institutions, be it via complaints before the European Ombudsman, or by taking cases before the European Court of Justice.

To this extent, Access Info Europe has led, since the year 2014, a campaign that specifically aims to tackle the practice of requiring a postal address in order to process access to documents requests; a practice we believe is an obstacle to the exercise of the right.

With respect to the Commission’s policy and practices, we took a complaint to the European Ombudsman, whose Decision in case 682/2014/JF of 19 December 2017 was mentioned in my confirmatory application.

This Decision suggests that the European Commission conduct a peer review on this issue within the next three months, and from Access Info Europe we will be granting the Commission this period, following its progress on the Ombudsman’s recommendations while continuing to provide our postal address in the meantime.

Nonetheless, this does not mean that our work to ensure the right of access to information can be exercised without obstacles has come to a halt when it comes to other EU institutions and agencies. In this regard, I would like to make clear that my confirmatory application of the 3 January 2018 is purely within the framework of this specific campaign, and is an action which did not contemplate or entail any kind of differentiated treatment with regards to its recipient, i.e.: the Fundamental Rights Agency.

I would also like to invite the Agency, if it has any further doubts, to review Access Info Europe’s work, campaigns, and strategic litigation in the European Union, all of which can be found here: https://www.access-info.org/

As an additional and final note, the Agency’s remark about my use of social media is also of concern. For a civil society organisation to make a comment on social media about the bureaucratic procedures of any particular governmental body is entirely within the bounds of the fundamental right to freedom of opinion and expression. It is surprising that that FRA would not only not agree with this, but would discourage or chastise a citizen for exercise of this basic democratic right.

Finally, I would like to recall that, as stated in previous correspondence with the Agency, it is Access Info’s firm belief that use of the legal right to appeal should not prejudice dialogue between EU institutions (and their access to documents and transparency offices) and civil society organisations like ours, as such dialogue is essential to make this fundamental right work in practice, both for EU authorities and for EU citizens and residents.

We therefore hope that we can continue building a relationship with FRA based on mutual respect, trust and understanding towards a stronger right of access to documents in the EU. We remain open to a discussion or meeting with you about these matters.

Kind regards,

Luisa Izuzquiza
Access Info Europe

FRA - Documents, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

1 Attachment

Vienna, 25 January 2018

Ref: 2018-outgoing-000032

 

Subject:         Access to documents request - Travel expenses of FRA
Director Michael O’Flaherty - reference number 2018-outgoing- 000001. 

 

Dear Ms Izuzquiza,

 

We are sorry to hear that ‘document 1’ was not enclosed in our last
response.

 

Please find attached the abovementioned document.

 

Kind regards,

 

 

Keep track of what’s coming up in 2018 with [1]FRA’s events & publications
calendar

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Dear FRA,

Thank you! I hereby confirm I have received the document.

Yours sincerely,

Luisa Izuzquiza
Access Info Europe