In an unprecedented, yet exemplary case of discrimination, the European External Action Service has treated two Access to Documents requests filed by different parties for the same documents inconsistently, in one case providing access to a requested document for one party and not the other!
New Europe has been investigating for months now, the case of the purchase made by the EEAS of the residence for the Head of Delegation in Albania.
In order to trace the procedure of the purchase, New Europe used Regulation 1049/2001 to request three documents:
(i) a market survey carried out prior to the purchase of the residence,
(ii) an evaluation carried out by the independent expert
(iii) a report of the Regional Security Officer of the EEAS in relation to security aspects.
After the first refusal of the documents, New Europe filed an appeal (known as a confirmatory application), and still did not receive the documents. In fact, only the most sensitive document of the three, the security report, was received nearly completely redacted.
“I hereby confirm that the market survey carried out prior to the purchase, as well as the evaluation carried out by the independent expert, cannot be made available to the general public neither as a whole or partially,” the final response from the EEAS received on 21 April 2017 reads.
News website ‘exit’ in Albania, also filed a request for the same documents, but the EEAS, provided access to documents refused to New Europe. In an article written by journalist Vincent W.J. van Gerven Oei, who picked up on the inconsistency after reading New Europe’s article, he notes:
“Now let us look how the EU actually deals with its own documents and the facts in this particular case. Both New Europe and Exit filed freedom of information requests concerning the documentation of the real estate purchase. Among others, this documentation was supposed to include an “evaluation carried out by an independent expert” and a “report of the Regional Security Officer of the EEAS.”
The EEAS has several times refused to provide New Europe with the independent expert report, citing “confidentiality.”
However, the same report was readily provided to Exit [pdf]. Similarly, the EEAS failed to provide Exit with the security report, which was however sent to New Europe.
At least, we should conclude from this behavior that the EEAS applies its own confidentiality rules inconsistently, thus violating the rights of EU citizens to have access to documents that show how their tax money is spent.”
Exit provides the PDF of the document in question on its website, complete with the internal Ares reference number.
New Europe’s investigation has sought to provide transparency to the process of the purchase, after information gathered showed that the price of purchase was higher than other houses in the same complex of larger size and similar qualities.