EU: Access to documents (Regulation 1049/2001): European Parliament’s Civil Liberties (LIBE) report proposing amendments to the Commission’s proposals (19.2.09, pdf) and Statewatch’s Analysis of the LIBE amendments (pdf) by Professor Steve Peers, University of Essex. see also: Council discussions: Statewatch analysis: Discussion of the new Access to Documents Regulation in the Council (pdf) by Professor Steve Peers, University of Essex.
On July 1st, the Court of Justice for the European Communities issued a judgment on access to legal opinions that offers good news. (Judgment of the Court of Justice in two joined cases C-39/05 P & C-52/05 P, Sweden and Turco v Council and Others, July 1, 2008):
The headline on the court’s press release reads: THE COURT AUTHORISES, IN PRINCIPLE, ACCESS TO LEGAL ADVICE GIVEN TO THE COUNCIL ON LEGISLATIVE QUESTIONS [bold text appeared in release]. The press release of the Court also states:
The Court takes the view that disclosure of documents containing the advice of an institution’s legal service on legal questions arising when legislative initiatives are being debated increases transparency and strengthens the democratic right of European citizens to scrutinize the information which has formed the basis of a legislative act.
The Court concludes that Regulation No 1049/2001 imposes, in principle, an obligation to disclose the opinions of the Council’s legal service relating to a legislative process. There are, however, exceptions to that principle as regards opinions given in the context of a legislative process, but being of a particularly sensitive nature or having a wide scope that goes beyond the context of the legislative process. In such a case, it is incumbent on the institution concerned to give a detailed statement of reasons for such a refusal.
For excellent analysis and updates on this topic, check out the Statewatch Observatory on Access to EU Documents.
Shrinking access to EU documents? This is from a press release on the European Ombudsman site:
“The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has called on the European Parliament (EP) to defend the European Union’s commitment to transparency and the citizens’ right of access to EU documents. This follows the European Commission’s recent proposals to revise the law on public access to documents. In his contribution to today’s public hearing in the EP’s LIBE Committee (Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs), the Ombudsman said:
“The Commission’s proposals would mean access to fewer, not more, documents. This raises fundamental issues of principle about the EU’s commitment to openness and transparency.”
The EU proposals sharply limit the definition of what is a “document” — “The Commission’s proposed definition of a document would mean that, in many cases, citizens could only apply for access to a document if it appeared in a register.”
Read the full text of the EU proposal to revise Regulation 1049/2001: “Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents” [4/30/2008]
Hat tip to the lawlibrarians blog for tracking this!