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EP Adopts Proposals to Improve EU Transparency Rules

Source: access-info.org

Date: 16 December 2011

Amsterdam/Brussels/Madrid, 15 December 2011 – The European Parliament today adopted its 1st reading position on proposals to improve the EU’s access to documents rules by a convincing 2:1 majority. [1]

The proposed reforms, contained in a report drawn up by Michael Cashman MEP already adopted by the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, are now the Parliament’s formal position and will be negotiated with the Council of the European Union, under the upcoming Danish Presidency.

Access Info Europe, ClientEarth and Greenpeace welcomed the European Parliament vote, noting that some proposed amendments to the Cashman Report which would have restricted transparency were defeated in the voting.[2]

The positive aspects of the European Parliament’s position include:

  • Improved definition of a document which covers electronic systems, including databases stored on "off-site" servers;
  • Expanded scope of the right of access to documents to cover all EU bodies in line with the Lisbon Treaty;
  • Strikes the right balance between EU institutions’ “Space to think” and transparency of the legislative process required by the Lisbon Treaty;
  • Upholds the pro-transparency decisions of the European Court of Justice, particularly on disclosure of legal opinions issued in the course of legislative procedures;
  • Rejects the member state transparency veto proposed by the Commission, which could have been based on weak national access to information laws;
  • Ensures a rapid appeal process for members of the public denied information: confirmatory applications will still need to be responded to within 15 working days;
  • Establishes Information Officers to improve efficiency in responding to requests from the public;
  • Preserves existing legitimate exceptions which protect privacy, business secrets, and genuinely sensitive information in the context of competition and staff cases whilst ensuring that information which should be made public is automatically released. 

We are very happy with this result. We now have high hopes that the Danish Presidency will work in favour of strong transparency rules in line with the guarantees of the right of access to documents contained in the EU Treaties and international law,” commented Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe.

For further information, please contact:
Helen Darbishire, Executive Director, Access Info Europe