|Council of the EU changing law to restrict access to information|
10 April 2012
On Friday 13th the Council of the EU will begin drafting its proposal for the recast of the “Regulation on public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents” (Regulation 1049/2001). Current plans indicate they intend to make it much harder for journalists, NGOs and citizens to scrutinise and challenge the decision making processes of EU institutions.
ClientEarth runs the European Union Aarhus Centre which works to further EU transparency. They are part of a coalition of NGOs who have written an open letter to the Ministers of Justice, and the Danish Presidency, explaining that the proposals are not balanced by any significant improvements to make the right of access more effective.
Anais Berthier, access to information lawyer at ClientEarth, said: “If the Council proceeds as plans suggest, and makes vast swathes of information exempt, they will make EU institutions more opaque and restrict public participation. It would be in total violation of the increased openness requirements of the Lisbon treaty.”
The outcome of proceedings from the Council’s 27 March meeting on the Regulation demonstrates the variety of ways the Council is planning to increase confidentiality. In particular it aims to restrict access in changing the definition of a document with the effect of excluding large amounts of information without justification and adding new exceptions, notably block exemptions or presumptions of confidentiality for whole categories of documents such as:
- Documents in competition cases (e.g. cartels, merger and state-aid cases);
- Documents in the context of court proceedings; and
- Documents in the context of infringement procedures.
Additionally, it wants to restrict access to legal advice by the institutions’ Legal Services, which clearly goes against case law.