7.9.2015   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 294/42


Appeal brought on 6 July 2015 by the European Ombudsman against the judgment of the General Court (Fourth Chamber) delivered on 29 April 2015 in Case T-217/11 Staelen v European Ombudsman

(Case C-337/15 P)

(2015/C 294/54)

Language of the case: French

Parties

Appellant: European Ombudsman (represented by: G. Grill, acting as Agent)

Other party to the proceedings: Claire Staelen

Form of order sought

Principally:

set aside the judgment of the General Court in Case T-217/11 in so far as it concludes that the Ombudsman committed several unlawful acts which constitute sufficiently serious infringements of EU law, that non-material damage was established and that there is a causal link between the unlawful acts identified by the General Court and that non-material damage, and in so far as it orders the Ombudsman to pay compensation amounting to EUR 7  000;

dismiss the application as unfounded in so far as the judgment of the General Court is set aside;

In the alternative,

refer the case back to the General Court in so far as the judgment of the General Court is set aside; and

make an order as to costs in a fair and just way.

Pleas in law and main arguments

In support of its appeal, the Ombudsman invokes grounds alleging several errors of law.

In the first place, it claims that the General Court erred in law by holding that a mere infringement of the principle of diligence sufficed for the purpose of establishing the existence of a sufficiently serious infringement. The Ombudsman considers that that reasoning of the General Court is not compatible with the case-law in the area of non-contractual liability, which requires a sufficiently serious breach of a rule of law intended to confer rights on individuals to be established and which states that the decisive test for finding that that requirement is fulfilled is whether the Community institution concerned manifestly and gravely disregarded the limits set on its discretion. The General Court omitted to take into account the specific nature of the function of the Ombudsman and in particular the fact that the latter has a very wide discretion with regard to the conduct of investigations.

In the second place, the Ombudsman contests also the General Court’s interpretation relating to the fact that, when he conducts an investigation, and an institution gives him an explanation which appears to him to be credible, that does not exempt him from his duty to ascertain whether the facts on which that explanation is based are established, in particular where that explanation is the only basis for his finding that there is no maladministration. The Ombudsman considers that the institutions are required to provide it with correct information and that it is therefore reasonable that he base his findings on the information provided to him, as long as there is no evidence which could call into question the reliability of the information provided. From that point of view, the Ombudsman claims that there was no reason to fear that the information provided did not correspond with the facts.

In the third place, although the Ombudsman agrees with the General Court that certain of the Ombudsman’s answers were made unreasonably late, the Ombudsman disputes that that infringement of European law which he is alleged to have committed may be classified as sufficiently serious. Consequently, the non-contractual liability of the EU cannot be triggered.

In the fourth place, the Ombudsman considers that the General Court erred in law by failing to provide an explanation with regard to the classification of the damage to Mrs Staelen’s trust in the office of Ombudsman as non-material harm.

In the last place, the Ombudsman contests the existence of a causal link between the irregularities he is alleged to have committed and the loss of Mrs Staelen’s confidence in the office of the Ombudsman.