There are two new decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union that deal with the Access to Documents Regulation. Both decisions repeal earlier decisions of the General Court (former Court of First Instance), and are more restrictive in their understanding of the right of access to documents.
The first decision – on Case T-194/04 Bavarian Lager v Commission, deals with personal data. The Court points out that where a request based on the Access to Documents Regulation seeks to obtain access to documents including personal data, the provisions of the Data Protection Regulation become applicable in their entirety. This means that the recipient of personal data has to establish the need for the disclosure of the personal data, and the subject in question has the right to object at any time, on compelling legitimate grounds relating to his or her particular situation, to the processing of data relating to him or her.
In the second decision – on Case T-237/02 Technische Glaswerke Ilmenau v Commission, the Court examines the specifics of the state aid procedure. According to the Court interested parties other than the Member State responsible for granting the aid do not have a right under those procedures to consult the documents on the Commission’s administrative file.
The European Commission has found that the Bulgarian steel producer Kremikovtzi did not implement the business plan established for its restructuring, which had been agreed by the Commission in 2006 on the basis of a special steel protocol to the Europe Agreement applicable to EU/Bulgaria relations prior to the 2007 accession. The company has received about €222 million of restructuring aid.
The European Commission has approved a record state aid measure for the restructuring plan of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). The total aid received by the RBS amounts to €67- €111 billion.
The Commission says that the measures ensure a sustainable future for RBS without continued state support, foresee an appropriate participation of the bank in the costs of restructuring, and include safeguards to limit distortions of competition, notably by reducing the size of the bank.
The board of directors of General Motors has decided not to finish the deal for the sale of carmaker Opel to a consortium of the Canadian Magna and Russian Sberbank. The has been a subject of investigation by the European Commission for illegal state aid.
The European Commission has said that it is now ready to examine any revised state-aid package that might be offered by the German government in the light of GM’s surprise announcement.
The German government has claimed that the financial aid for Opel was not conditional. I fail to understand, then, the reaction of Jürgen Rüttgers, premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, who said: “General Motors’ behaviour shows the ugly face of turbo-capitalism. That is completely unacceptable.” Rainer Brüderle, Germany’s new economics minister, has also said: “The behaviour of General Motors towards Germany is totally unacceptable.”
To my humble opinion the wording of the German reaction is utterly unacceptable itself. The German government has said in writing to the European Commission that the €4.5bn of government aid for the deal was not dependent on Magna and Sberbank being the winner, and is available to all bidders.
Is it available to all bidders or is it not available or what?
The European Commission has adopted a Simplification Package for state aid with a Best Practice Code and a Simplified Procedure Notice.
The Best Practices Code details how state aids procedures should be carried out in practice, in particular as regards their duration, transparency and predictability.
The Simplified Procedure aims at improving the Commission’s treatment of straightforward cases, like those clearly in line with existing horizontal instruments or established Commission decision-making practice.