The Civil Liberties Committee urged today the Commission to revise the rules on public access to documents, highlighting several problems in the implementation of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001. The revised regulation should clarify some of its provisions, precisely define and narrow its exceptions and be simple and accessible for citizens, in order to make them able to effectively use their rights, MEPs insist.
The report prepared by Heidi Hautala, adopted with 47 votes in favour and 2 against, gives an overview of how the public have had access to EU documents during 2009-2010. It highlights problems in the implementation of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 and the existing case-law.
According to the report, the current regulation on public access to documents contains provisions that are vague and lack precision. The existing exceptions (such as the “space to think”) are widely used while being ambiguous. The committee stresses, for instance, that the documents related to international agreements should not be automatically treated as non-public.
The practice of the institutions also shows need for improvement. The Council’s legislative work is criticised for the lack of transparency, while the Commission is requested to open up the work of its expert groups and committees. Furthermore, the documents of the preparation phase of the legislation of the three institutions (trialogues) should be public, MEPs say.
“It is encouraging to note that all the parliamentary groups stand behind the main findings as the public access to documents is a fundamental right. The report will pave the way for negotiations with the Commission and the Council on the revision of the regulation”, said Ms Hautala.
Transparency in the Parliament
Parliament should be at the forefront of the proactive approach on publicity, transparency, openness and access to documents, stresses the report.
Transparency has to apply to the work of Parliament’s official bodies (such as the Conference of Presidents, the Bureau and the Quaestors), says the Civil Liberties Committee. The question of MEPs’ allowances should also be dealt in a transparent way, fully respecting personal data protection rules, it adds.
Since the entry into force of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents the European Parliament has been keen in assessing periodically how the principle of transparency is implemented by the EU institutions.
The Lisbon Treaty introduced a new constitutional framework of EU institutional transparency. With the new Treaty, the obligation to grant access to documents does not only bind the Parliament, Council and Commission but also new actors, such as the European Council, the ECJ, the ECB, the EIB, and a growing number of EU agencies and bodies.
Ms Hautala’s report will be voted in plenary in July.