Access to EU documents to become more difficult

17/05/2012. The latest position of the European Council constitutes a significant overall reduction in the level of access to documents, believes Professor Steve Peers, Law School, University of Essex.

On 10 May 2012, the Danish Presidency of the Council put on the agenda of Coreper (the EU body consisting of Member States representatives to the EU) a draft deal on the proposed Regulation on access to documents. This deal, if agreed, would constitute the Council’s position for negotiations with the European Parliament (EP), which has joint decision-making powers on this proposal.

This analysis examines the draft deal on an article-by-article basis and concludes:

– The draft position of the Council constitutes a significant overall reduction in the level of access to documents.

– In particular, the council’s definition of a ‘document’ is of doubtful legality and would exclude massive numbers of documents from the scope of the rules.

– The EP should not accept the Council proposal in its present form, or any variation thereof which would significantly reduce current standards.

– In particular, the EP should make clear to the Council that it cannot in any circumstances accept the proposed definition of a ‘document’. If the Council is adamant on including this definition, the EP should instantly veto the proposal.

– The Commission’s decision to present negotiations in the form of a ‘recast’ – a profoundly undemocratic and indeed surely illegal procedure – has prevented the EP from pressing for most of the changes it has unanimously voted for.

– The EP and the Council should immediately denounce the pernicous and illegal Inter-institutional Agreement on the recasting of EU Acts.

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