EFJ Statement on Access to Information

The EFJ rejects the proposals for a new regulation on access to information, now being discussed by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, since these proposals do not fulfill promises made in the Treaty of Amsterdam to establish new rules creating genuine transparency and open government within the institutions of the European Union.

The EFJ also deplores the fact that the legal process is being carried out in secrecy, giving citizens little opportunity to take part or to influence the process.

The EFJ has made strenuous efforts to encourage and to assist the internal discussions within the EU on this issue, but given the current circumstances we demand that the commission proposal is reviewed, to give room for a fresh start, where the question will be dealt openly and in proper consultation with civil society.

The EFJ confirms the following minimum criteria for a new code of public access to EU documents :

  • The code must cover all documents held by the institutions, including documents on a preparatory stage, to make it possible for citizens to take part and influence decisions;
  • There must be open registers, electronically accessible, which also include classified documents;

  • Exemptions must be known in advance, kept to a minimum, and be precise and narrowly defined.

  • The code must be applicable to all European institutions including the judicial institutions;

  • When submitting a request, no reason has to be given and the right to remain anonymous exists;

  • The process of handing out documents must be speedy, with on the spot-decisions;

  • There must be a right to appeal, to an independent body, free of charge;

  • Civil servants must have a right of whistle-blowing when there is a public interest, and proper protection when they use this right.

  • Education on the subject of openness for all civil servants, but also for the general public.

  • Adopted March 25, 2001.