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European Court Of Justice Hands Down Big Win For Transparency in Europe

from the nice,-but-lots-more-needed dept

After a five-year battle by Access Info Europe, Europe’s highest court has made an important ruling that will help boost transparency in the European Union:

the European Court of Justice today rejected arguments by the Council of the European Union that it should be able to keep secret the identities of Member States making proposals in the context of negotiations on future EU legislation.

The Council of the European Union had fought to defend its policy of releasing legislative drafting documents with the names of Member States tabling amendments blacked out.

Access Info Europe won access to the document it requested before the General Court in March 2011 but the Council appealed, joined by the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Spain and the UK.

The Council of the European Union is one of three bodies that jointly run the European Union, along with the European Parliament and European Commission. Some countries wanted their names blacked out from official Council of the European Union documents because it would have revealed which of them had blocked or tried to water down proposals they were hostile to. Now that it will be possible to name and shame Member States that act in this way, they will probably be less willing to be seen objecting to important and popular measures.

As Access Info Europe explains:

This ruling means that members of the public at the national level will find it easier to know what is going on in Brussels, and will make it easier for national parliaments to follow and scrutinise the EU legislative process, and in particular the positions taken by delegations of Member States.

Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe, is quoted as saying:

“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.”

Given the Council’s dogged resistance to even minimal transparency, that’s unlikely to happen, but at least things have started moving in the right direction.

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