European Law Monitor

Make your voice heard!

ELM News ImageThe European Commission wants better public access to documents of the EU institutions

With the adoption of its Green Paper today, the Commission is launching an open public consultation on the Regulation regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents (Regulation 1049/2001).

This consultation marks a further step in the drive towards more openness, triggered by the European Transparency Initiative, which was launched by the Commission in November 2005.

Ms Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the Commission in charge of Institutional Relations and Communication Strategy said about the decision:" We are committed to high standards of transparency of EU decision-making process. Access to documents is an important citizens' right. With this consultation, we start the discussion how it can be best exercised."

In the Green Paper, the Commission takes stock of the current rules on public access to documents and outlines some options for improving the system with a view to grant citizens better and easier access to documents of the three institutions and of the Community Agencies.

Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 has been in operation for just over five years. The three institutions have gathered experience in implementing the Regulation and the European Courts have interpreted it in a series of rulings. Therefore, the time seems right to review the Regulation and the European Parliament has asked the Commission to come forward with proposals for amending it. However, before proposing any changes to the current rules, the Commission wishes to consult the public at large. Therefore, it has published this Green Paper and opened a dedicated website, through which members of the public, citizens, civil society organisations, economic operators, public authorities and any organisation with an interest in European affairs may submit comments and suggestions.

The Green Paper consists of two main parts. The first part contains an analysis of the implementation of the Regulation and a summary of the relevant case law of the European Courts. The second part, the Commission submits suggestions for improving the current system. The main issues submitted to the consultation are:

       * Should more emphasis be put on promoting active dissemination of information?
       * The rules on public access to documents could be harmonised with the rules on access to environmental information, to which the institutions are bound by an international Convention (the Convention of Ã…rhus on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters). Would a single set of rules for access to documents, including environmental information provide more clarity for citizens?
       * How to ensure the proper balance between transparency and the protection of personal data, of economic and commercial interests and of the principle of good administration.