THE GREENS/EFA IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, PRESS RELEASE - Brussels, 3 May 2001

Cashman Report on access to EU documents

EP draws curtain on window of opportunity

The Green/EFA Group in the European parliament today voted against a compromise text on the access to documents in the EU institutions arguing that the text still contains too many far-reaching restrictions on transparency and openness. The Cashman report on public access to documents of the EU institutions was adopted by 400 votes in favour, 85 against and 12 abstentions.

Heidi Hautala, President of the Green/EFA Group said after the vote:

"Today, the European Parliament has drawn a curtain on a window of opportunity to improve the openness of EU institutions considerably. Instead of defending the interests of the public and parliament, the majority of MEPs today backed the interests of the Council and the Swedish EU Presidency. MEPs did not seize the opportunity to fill in the loop holes in the compromise which still allow for considerable restrictions of access to documents, by classifying them as "sensitive".

"In accepting a broad definition of what is deemed to be "sensitive" documents, Parliament accepted that a large array of documents could be classified as such. According to the voted text, "sensitive documents" could encompass anything from economic policy, international relations and trade to security and defence policy.

"The Amsterdam treaty grants a comprehensive access to documents. Against common belief, there are already rules in place, which grant access to documents in various institutions. The new regulation, which establishes uniform rules for all EU institutions, should have improved the present situation, but it does so only in some few respects. The new regulation rather endorses last July's infamous Solana decision, which is still hidden in the core of the new regulation.

"It's now clear that it was a mistake for the European parliament to have accepted a fast track procedure, which meant that major rules on openness were negotiated behind closed doors, out of the reach of civil society. The hasty meetings and dead lines imposed by the Swedish presidency led Parliament to accept compromises, which limit the access to documents in a severe way. With some more time and persistence Parliament could have reached much more than it has got now."

The adoption of the report means that the procedure will be concluded in first reading, as the Council has already reached a political agreement on the text.



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