Commission refers Slovenia to Court of Justice over the violation of the European Central Bank’s archives and of the duty to cooperate sincerely.

The European Commission has decided to refer Slovenia to the Court of Justice of the EU for the violation of the inviolability of the archives of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the duty of sincere cooperation in the context of the seizure of European Central Bank documents that took place at the Central Bank of Slovenia.

On 6 July 2016, in the context of a national investigation against central bank officials unrelated to the tasks of the ECB, the Slovenian authorities seized information at the Bank of Slovenia that included ECB documents and IT hardware. The ECB had given no prior authorisation for the seizure of those items, and subsequent attempts by the ECB to resolve the matter amicably have been unsuccessful.

The unilateral seizure by Slovenia of ECB documents in an investigation about matters under national law at the premises of the Bank of Slovenia constitutes a violation of the inviolability of the archives of the ECB. The inviolability of the ECB’s archives by national authorities is protected by Protocol 7 to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. EU law provides for procedures by which the privileges and immunities of the Union institutions can be lifted at the request of national authorities, which were not used in this case. The Commission found that the Slovenian authorities have also failed to engage in constructive discussions with the ECB on this issue as required by the principle of sincere cooperation under Article 4(3) of the Treaty on the European Union.

Attempts by the Commission to clarify the facts and circumstances were unsuccessful. These attempts included a pilot letter in December 2016, a letter of formal notice in May 2017 and a reasoned opinion in July 2018.

The Commission remains in close contact with the ECB on this matter.