Thursday

20th Jul 2017

Commission pushes for document secrecy despite court judgement

The European Commission and national governments are seeking to crack down on the rules granting access to their internal documents despite a ruling by the European Court of Justice calling on them to release legal opinions drafted by the EU Council's legal service.

A ruling on Friday (May 4th) by the European Court of Justice brought an end to a two-year legal dispute between Dutch Liberal MEP Sophie In't Veld and the European Council over access to documents regarding the controversial Swift agreement on transferring banking data.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

In July 2009, In't Veld demanded access to an opinion drafted by the council's legal service regarding the start of negotiations on Swift.

The agreement was finally approved by the European Parliament in July 2010 after the EU secured a set of safeguards on privacy and data protection rights. An earlier pact between EU and US officials in January 2010 was rejected by MEPs who claimed it would give the US unrestricted access to data in the EU.

Under the agreement, US investigators have access to the 80 percent of electronic bank transfers which are facilitated by Swift. The council refused to release the papers, claiming that disclosure of the document would "negatively impact on the European Union's negotiating position" and that the analysis was "only intended for the members of the council."

The Luxembourg-court dismissed this however, saying that the council had "not established the risk of a threat to the public interest" and described as "not convincing" the attempts to show that disclosure would undermine the protection of legal advice.

In't Veld - who earlier this year drafted a report for the parliament's civil liberties committee calling on MEPs to reject the EU/US agreement on the data transfer of flight passengers - described the ruling as "a step forward for transparency in Europe" which establishes a precedent that "negotiations on international agreements are not automatically exempt from EU transparency rules."

The court ruling comes as the European Parliament and ministers remain at loggerheads over the re-cast of the 10 year old regulation on public access to documents held by the EU institutions.

In December 2011 the parliament adopted a report by British centre-left MEP Michael Cashman aimed at increasing the access of members of the public to EU documents.

Cashman criticised the commission proposal, arguing that it would "represent a step backwards for transparency." He is now seeking to cut the number of exceptions for disclosure and to reform the types of documents that would remain classified. He also wants to impose sanctions on officials who refuse to comply with the regulations.

However, Maros Sefcovic, the EU commissioner responsible for relations between the institutions, remains insistent that the EU executive will not accept these measures.

Instead, the commission, backed by a majority in the council of ministers, is bidding to designate more documents as "meriting special protection" - excluding them from public access.

Their proposal, set out in working papers by the commission and the Danish presidency, would block access to papers on competition cases looking at cartels, mergers and state-aid, court proceedings, infringement procedures and legal advice.

If no agreement can be found between parliament and the council the existing regulation will remain in place.

EU states appeal court ruling on transparency

EU member states are set to launch an appeal of a lower court decision with the European Court of Justice hoping to prevent greater transparency in decision-making - even about transparency rules themselves.

EU hands personal data to US authorities on daily basis

EU and US co-operation in combatting terrorism remains shrouded in secrecy as Europol, the EU police agency, refuses to render public an inspection report that details how financial data is handed over to US authorities.

Court ruling to boost access to EU documents

EU institutions must demonstrate that the disclosure of a document effectively harms the public interest if they want to deny publication, the European Court of Justice has ruled.

Investigation

Mafia money pollutes the EU economy

Huge amounts of money from criminal activities are funnelled into the legitimate European economy. But little is being done about it at EU or national level.

News in Brief

  1. GMO opt-out plan unlikely to go anywhere in 2017
  2. Slovak PM threatens to boycott inferior food
  3. France takes Google's 'right to be forgotten' to EU court
  4. Turkey accuses German companies of supporting terror
  5. Israel's Netanyahu caught calling EU 'crazy'
  6. UK does not collect enough data to expel EU nationals
  7. Polish president threatens to veto justice reform
  8. EU immigration to Switzerland at lowest level since 2005

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  2. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  3. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  4. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  5. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  6. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Episode 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  9. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  10. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  12. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School

Latest News

  1. Law expert: direct EU powers have become too complicated
  2. Winter is here for Spitzenkandidat, but he'll survive
  3. Mafia money pollutes the EU economy
  4. Central Europe should be wary of Brexit stopping
  5. Poland's 'July coup' and what it means for the judiciary
  6. Commission: clean up diesel cars, or EU agency inevitable
  7. EU Commission readies Article 7 procedure against Poland
  8. Fake EU parliament jobs case reaches French left leader