International organization Access Info Europe won the case against Council of the European Union

October 18, 2013

The EuropeanCourt of Justice obliged the Council of the European Union to open access to thedocument that contained Member States’ proposals concerning amendments or re-drafting of a new regulation regardingpublic access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.This document was requested by Access Info Europe. The Council of the EU refused togive this document in full, but the European Court of Justice by its Judgment as of17, October, 2013 defended the right of Access Info Europe on information.

The Councilof the EU granted partial access to the requested document, but gave it withoutinformation about which of the Member States had put mentioned proposals forward.It referred to the rules of the Article 4(3) of Regulation No 1049/2001that foresee that institution can refuse in access to a document if its disclosurewould seriously undermine the institution’s decision-making process, unlessthere is an overriding public interest in disclosure. Except that theCouncil considered that the preliminary nature of thediscussions under way at that time, disclosure of the identities of the MemberStates concerned would have reduced the delegations’ room for manoeuvre duringthe negotiations, which are a feature of the legislative procedure in theCouncil, and would therefore have impaired its ability to reach an agreement

On thetwenty sixth of November 2008 – the day of creation of mentioned document, its uneditedversion became available to the public on the Internet site of the organisationStatewatch, without authorisation.

On the twelfthof June 2009 organization “Access Info Europe” brought an action for annulmentof the decision at issue. The General Court upheld the action and madeseveral important conclusions.

Among othersit found that the disclosure of the identities of those who put forward aproposal would not prevent the delegations from subsequently departing fromthat proposal as these proposals are designed to be discussed and not toremain unchanged following that discussion if the identity of its author isknown

The GeneralCourt stated that the preliminary nature of the discussions does not, initself, justify application of the exception provided for in the firstsubparagraph of Article 4(3) of Regulation No 1049/2001. Except that itrejected he Council’s argument that it is necessary to take into consideration particularlysensitive nature of the proposals made by the Member State delegations, as tothe General Court’s opinion, proposals for amendments are part of the normallegislative process.

The judgmentof the General Court was appealed by the Council of the EU. The last wassupported by the Czech Republic,the Hellenic Republic,the United Kingdom of Great Britain andNorthern Ireland, the Kingdomof Spain and the French Republic,when European Parliament supported Access Info Europe.

EuropeanCourt of Justice upheld position of General Court and recognized Council’sarguments ineffective.

Theimportance of this decision lies in facilitation of receiving informationregarding legislative initiatives of the European Union and its subjects by thesociety, as well as in support of greater transparency of authorities.