Luxembourg, 17 October 2013. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) today rejected arguments from the Council of the European Union that it should be able to keep secret which Member States make what proposals in negotiations on EU legislation.
This is the final ruling by the highest court in the EU, and represents the culmination of a long legal battle for greater transparency in the EU legislative process. The Council of the EU has consistently fought to defend its policy of releasing legislative drafting documents with the names of the member states tabling amendments blacked out.
The case for greater transparency was brought by Madrid-based information-access campaigner Access Info Europe, which seeks more open access to legislative documents. It was supported by the European Parliament.
The European Court of Justice rejected the Council’s arguments that it should be able to withhold information from the public in order to preserve the “effectiveness of the legislative decision-making process”. The ECJ confirmed that, “the mere fact that the request for disclosure was made at a very early stage in the legislative process was not sufficient to allow the application of that exception”.
“This is a significant victory for transparency and participatory democracy,” commented Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe. “If the Council applies this ruling to all similar documents, this would finally provide a similar level of transparency at the EU level as one would normally find in national legislative processes.”
The ruling will make it easier for members of the public to understand what is going on in Brussels, Darbishire claims, and enable European national Parliaments to scrutinise the EU legislative process more effectively, in particular the positions taken by the different member states during negotiations.
She added, “We call on the Council to respect this ruling and to go a step further by henceforth proactively publishing documents containing legislative drafting positions of member states on the Council’s public register as soon as they are created, as this will allow the public to follow the decision making process.”
Helen Darbishire, Executive Director, Access Info Europe
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