Key facts of the case:
The applicant submitted a request to the respondent (the Migration Department) to change/prolong a temporary residence permit to live in Lithuania (at first, the applicant received his temporary residence permit as a student and later, after finishing business school in Lithuania, he claimed that he wanted to develop business activities in Lithuania). The responded adopted a decision by which it rejected the applicant’s request on 16 December 2014. The respondent argued that the applicant did not substantiate his request and did not demonstrate that his intentions to develop business were real. The applicant challenged the decision of the Migration Department before the Regional Administrative Court of Vilnius.
The court pointed out that the respondent had not diligently examined the request of the applicant. The court took into account, among other things, the e-mail exchange between the applicant and the respondent and decided that the applicant’s right to be heard was not ensured because the respondent established very short deadlines (2 days) for submitting additional documents and did not take into account the argument of the applicant that he had not had real opportunities to submit these documents in such a short period of time and had not had an objective possibility of appearing in person before the Migration Department to explain his case.
Outcome of the case:
The Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania rejected the appeal of the respondent. The Court noted that the right to good administration forms an integral part of national constitutional and EU principles. It noted that the right to good administration includes the right to be heard and accessibility to public services, which means that an institution of public administration has the obligation to consult the applicant, regarding how to manage his or her request in order to get a desired decision. The chamber agreed with the assessment of the court of first instance that the respondent had established unreasonable deadlines for submission of additional documents (2 days) and thus had breached the principle of good administration, including the right to be heard. Therefore, the challenged decision of the Migration Department was annulled and the respondent was ordered to exam the request of the applicant anew.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union establishes the right to good administration, which means that institutions must handle requests impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time (Article 41 (1) of the Charter). Article 41 (2) of the Charter provides that the right to good administration covers the following: the right of every person to be heard, before any individual measure which would affect him or her adversely is taken (para a); the right of every person to have access to his or her file, while respecting the legitimate interests of confidentiality and of professional and business secrecy (para b); the obligation of the administration to give reasons for its decisions (para c).
The chamber notes that the principle of good administration covers the accessibility to public services and the right to be heard. The principle of accessibility to public services means that an institution of public administration has the obligation to consult the applicant on how to initiate the process concerning relevant issue, to provide information enabling an individual to find the most effective ways to attain desired aims.