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French government ban on short-distance domestic flights

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To whom it May Concern,

on behalf of Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO), I would like to - under the right of access to documents in the EU treaties as developed in Regulation 1049/2001 - request access to the following documents:
- all reports (and other notes) from meetings between the European Commission and representatives of the Union des Aéroports Français (UAF) and/or the Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) since July 1st 2021.
- all correspondence (including emails and WhatsApp messages) between the European Commission and representatives of the Union des Aéroports Français (UAF) and/or the Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) since July 1st 2021.
- a list of all the above-mentioned documents (including dates, names of participants/senders/recipients and their affiliation, subject of meeting/correspondence)

The background for this request is as follows: last year the French airports' lobby group UAF (jointly with the European branch of the Airports Council International, ACI Europe) lodged a complaint to the European Commission against the French government’s intended ban on domestic flights for which an alternative by train of less than 2 hours and 30 minutes exists. According to newspaper reporting, the airport lobby groups argued that the ban violates ‘one of the founding principles of Europe, that is to say the freedom to provide services’. In December 2021 the European Commission opened an investigation into the French government’s plans. This investigation appears to be still ongoing.

There is a clear public interest in the disclosure of these documents. The transparency rules as set out in the Lisbon Treaty oblige the EU institutions to work as openly and as closely as possible to citizens. There is moreover clearly a lot at stake for EU citizens in this case, as it concerns the right of public authorities to introduce the strong and ambitious policy measures needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.

In response to a previous request to DG GROW (GESTDEM 2022/3775), I was informed that "no such documents, corresponding to the description given in your application, are held by DG GROW". I assume that this means that the complaint by French airports' lobby group UAF (jointly with the European branch of the Airports Council International, ACI Europe) was filed to another part of the European Commission. This is why I now submit the same request to the Secretariat-General, which must be able to locate the complaint submitted by UAF as well as other documents related to this request.

Yours faithfully,

Olivier Hoedeman
on behalf of Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)
Rue d'Edimbourg 26
1050 Brussels

SG ACCES DOCUMENTS, Secretaría General de la Comisión Europea

1 Adjuntos

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Dear Sir,

 

Thank you for your e-mail of 5 August 2022. We hereby acknowledge receipt
of your application for access to documents, which was registered on 5
August 2022 under reference number GESTDEM 2022/4462.

 

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 29 August 2022. In case this time limit
needs to be extended, you will be informed in due course.

 

You have lodged your application via 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 Commission.

For further information on your rights, please refer to the third party’s
privacy policy.

 

We understand that the third party running the AsktheEU.org website
usually publishes the content of applicants’ correspondence with the
Commission on that website. This includes the personal data that you may
have communicated to the 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 that your correspondence with the Commission is
published on a private third-party website such as AsktheEU.org, you can
provide us with an alternative, private e-mail address for further
correspondence. In that case, the Commission will send all future
electronic correspondence addressed to you only to that private address,
and it will use only that private address to reply to your request. You
should still remain responsible to inform the private third-party website
about this change of how you wish to communicate with, and receive a reply
from, the Commission.

 

For information on how we process your personal data visit our page
[5]Privacy statement - access to documents.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

 

 

ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS TEAM (IC)

 

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European Commission

Secretariat-General

SG.C1 (Transparency, Document Management and Access to Documents)

[7][email address]

 

 

 

 

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MOVE E1 SECRETARIAT, Secretaría General de la Comisión Europea

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Dear Sir,

Please, find attached a letter from Ms Diaz Pulido requesting for
clarifications concerning your request of access to documents, registered
under GESTEM 2022/4462.

 

Thank you in advance for your kind reply,

Best regards,

Move E1 Secretariat

References

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MOVE E1 SECRETARIAT, Secretaría General de la Comisión Europea

1 Adjuntos

Dear Mr. Hoedeman,
please, find attached a reply to your request of access to documents, registered under reference GESTEM 2022/4462.

Kind regards,
Move E1 Secretariat

Olivier Hoedeman dejó un comentario ()

Brussels, September 19 2022

Dear Secretariat General of the European Commission,

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

We are filing the following confirmatory application with regards to our access to documents request 'French government ban on short-distance domestic flights’, which was registered on 5 August 2022 under reference number GESTDEM 2022/4462.

Our access to documents request asked for disclosure of “all reports (and other notes) from meetings between the European Commission and representatives of the Union des Aéroports Français (UAF) and/or the Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) since July 1st 2021; all correspondence (including emails and WhatsApp messages) between the European Commission and representatives of the Union des Aéroports Français (UAF) and/or the Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) since July 1st 2021; a list of all the above-mentioned documents (including dates, names of participants/senders/recipients and their affiliation, subject of meeting/correspondence).”

In a letter dated 7 September, the Commission rejected our access to documents request, arguing that “disclosure is prevented by an exception to the right of access laid down in Article 4(2) of this Regulation”. In particular, the Commission argues that “disclosure would undermine the protection of (...) the purpose of inspections, investigations and audits, unless there is an overriding public interest in disclosure." The Commission claimed that “disclosure of the documents requested at this stage of the procedure would affect the purposes of the examination, as well as the climate of mutual trust between the authorities of the Member State concerned and the Commission.” The Commission also stated: “we have considered whether an overriding public interest exists and were not able to identify such an interest”.

We disagree with this assessment. In our request we had stated that “there is a clear public interest in the disclosure of these documents. The transparency rules as set out in the Lisbon Treaty oblige the EU institutions to work as openly and as closely as possible to citizens. There is moreover clearly a lot at stake for EU citizens in this case, as it concerns the right of public authorities to introduce the strong and ambitious policy measures needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.” We will elaborate on this below.

Having assessed the list of documents provided by the European Commission in its letter dated 7 September, we would agree to limit our request to only four documents at this stage: documents 1, 1.1, 3 and 3.1 (see details below). These are all documents originating from the airport lobby groups ACI EUROPE and the Union des Aéroports Français & Francophones Associés (UAF&FA). We cannot see how disclosure of these four documents would in any way undermine “the protection of (...) the purpose of inspections, investigations and audits”.

With this narrowing down of our original request, we believe that the disclosure of the requested documents would clearly contribute, in a very concrete manner, to the protection of a public interest that would override the interest mentioned in the third indent of Article 4(2) (protection of the purpose of inspections, investigations and audits) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001.

This overriding public interest is the right to know on what grounds the Commission is examining the measures taken by a Member State to reduce short-haul flights in order to address the burning societal challenge of escalating climate change, a goal the European Commission has also professed to prioritise (as part of the European Green Deal and other policy initiatives). The right of governments to introduce such measures is of major strategic importance. We would also like to remind that these specific measures originate from the Citizens Convention for Climate, a laudable example of enabling participation of the public in decision making.

It has now been a full year since the ACI EUROPE and the Union des Aéroports Français & Francophones Associés (UAF&FA) submitted their complaint and nine months since the Commission’s examination was announced. There appears to be no publicly available information - on the European Commission’s websites - about the Commission’s examination nor about the complaint (registered as CHAP(2021)03705). This very regrettable lack of transparency means that our access to documents request is the only way to pursue the public right to know about EU decision-making.

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

Yours faithfully,

Olivier Hoedeman
on behalf of Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)
Rue d'Edimbourg 26,
1050 Brussels, Belgium
Tel. +32 (0)2 893 0930

The four documents are:

- Document 1: Email from Airports Council International (ACI) EUROPE of 17 September 2021 to Mr. Henrik Hololei, Director-General of DG MOVE, and to the Secretariat-General;
- Document 1.1: Joint letter from ACI EUROPE and the Union des Aéroports Français & Francophones Associés (UAF&FA) of 17 September 2021 to Mr. Henrik Hololei, with a copy to the Secretariat-General, with the reference ARES(2021)5728587, sent as an attachment to Document 1;
- Document 3: Complaint form from ACI EUROPE and UAF&FA dated 5 October 2021, registered as a complaint under the reference CHAP(2021)03705;
- Document 3.1: Joint letter from ACI EUROPE and the Union des Aéroports Français & Francophones Associés (UAF&FA) referred above as Document 1.1, sent as an attachment to the complaint form;

SG-DOSSIERS-ACCES@ec.europa.eu,

Hello,

We are writing concerning your confirmatory request for access to
Commission documents for case 2022/4462 registered on 19 September 2022.

We are currently working on your confirmatory request. However, we have
not yet been able to gather all the elements necessary to carry out a full
analysis of your request. We will not be able to send you the reply within
the prescribed time limit expiring on 10 October 2022.

Therefore, in line with Article 8(2) of [1]Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 we
need to extend this time limit by 15 additional working days. The new time
limit expires on 31 October 2022.

We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

Kind regards,

Access to Documents Team

Secretariat General

Unit C.1 (Transparency, Document Management and Access to Documents)

 

References

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1. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/...

sg-acc-doc@ec.europa.eu,

Hello,

We are writing to you concerning your confirmatory request for access to
Commission documents for case 2022/4462, registered on 19 September 2022.

On 10 October 2022, we extended the time-limit for replying to your
confirmatory request to 31 October 2022.

Unfortunately, we will not be able to send you the reply within this
extended time limit because we have not yet finalised the internal
consultations necessary to the treatment of your request.

However, we assure you that we are doing our best to send a reply to your
confirmatory request as soon as possible.

We regret this additional delay and sincerely apologize for any
inconvenience this may cause.

Kind regards,

Access to Documents Team

Secretariat-General

Unit C.1 (Transparency, Document management and Access to Documents)

Dear Access to Documents Team, Secretariat General of the European Commission,

thank you for your message dated October 28 2022 about my access to documents request 2022/4462. After first having extended the time-limit, the Commission now informs me that it has "not yet finalised the internal consultations necessary to the treatment of [my] request" and that I will get a response to my confirmatory application "as soon as possible", but without a new time-limit or deadline... Considering that I have already agreed to limit the number of documents covered by my request, I find this response very unsatisfactory.

Unless I receive a substantive response next week, I would consider it necessary to submit a complaint to the European Ombudsman about these repeated delays.

Yours faithfully,

Olivier Hoedeman
Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO)

sg-acc-doc@ec.europa.eu,

Dear Mr Hoedeman,

Thank you for your e-mail. 

We understand your concerns about the delay and we would like to assure
you that we are working on the final decision in relation to your request.
Although your request concerns a limited number of documents, several
procedural steps need to be fulfilled in order to adopt a Commission
decision. Unfortunately we cannot commit to a specific time frame within
when the final decision will be adopted. 

However, we would like to assure you that we are doing our utmost to
provide you with a reply as soon as possible.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience this delay may
cause to you and thank you for your understanding. 

Kind regards,

Access to Documents Team

 Secretariat-General

 Unit C.1 (Transparency, Document management and Access to Documents)

sg-acc-doc@ec.europa.eu,

Dear Mr Hoedeman,

Thank you for your e-mail. 

We understand your concerns about the delay and we would like to assure
you that we are working on the final decision in relation to your request.
Although your request concerns a limited number of documents, several
procedural steps need to be fulfilled in order to adopt a Commission
decision. Unfortunately we cannot commit to a specific time frame within
when the final decision will be adopted. 

However, we would like to assure you that we are doing our utmost to
provide you with a reply as soon as possible.

Please accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience this delay may
cause to you and thank you for your understanding. 

Kind regards,

Access to Documents Team

 Secretariat-General

 Unit C.1 (Transparency, Document management and Access to Documents)

No sabemos si la última respuesta a esta solicitud contiene información o no – si eres Olivier Hoedeman por favor abre una sesión y háznoslo saber.