Victory for transparency: Access to trilogue documents should be granted

The Legal Affairs Committee JURI has today recommended that the European Parliament will not appeal against the decision of the General Court to allow the citizens access to documents produced in the last stages of the EU legislation, the so-called trilogue negotiations.

Greens/EFA MEP and JURI member Heidi Hautala comments:

This is a good day for European citizens. It confirms that the Parliament remains the main EU institution promoting transparency. An appeal would have sent a very bad signal to the citizens at this time when trust to EU is shaking.

The European Parliament should lead by its example, and the court rightly pointed out that laws cannot be made in secrecy. Now, the key focus should be to implement the ruling in full.

Greens/EFA MEP and JURI member Julia Reda comments:

Trilogue documents often find their way into the hands of some privileged lobbyists mere minutes after they are produced. Giving citizens that same access is not just a matter of fairness, it is necessary to allow public scrutiny of the entire legislative process.

Indeed, the Parliament has repeatedly called for publishing trilogue documents proactively on the institutions’ websites[1]. It would be hypocritical to challenge a ruling that establishes that citizens should get access to these documents upon request.

Background:

The Committee for Legal Affairs voted today on a legal dispute involving the European Parliament in a crucial case regarding transparency in EU policy-making: De Capitani v. European Parliament. This landmark decision from the EU General Court, rendered on 22 March 2018, obliges the Parliament to grant access to trilogue documents. The case was initiated by Mr De Capitani, former Head of Secretariat of the Committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in the European Parliament.

In the trilogue process, the content of the ongoing political negotiations between the Council, the Parliament and the Commission is indicated in the fourth-column of the so-called ‘four-column documents’. These documents, and especially the fourth-column, are usually kept confidential and restricted to the close circle of the negotiating parties. The General Court ruled that a general presumption of non-access to the fourth-column of four-column documents is not sustainable.

[1]Giegold and Ferrara reports

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