European Court verdict supports drive for increased transparency in EU
decision-making

Corporate Europe Observatory press release, 8 November 2007


Today the European Court of First Instance issued a judgement in the long-running Bavarian Lager Case, annulling a decision of the European Commission to reject an application for access to the full minutes of a stakeholders meeting organised by the Commission, including all names of the lobbyists present at that meeting. The Commission could still appeal the judgement at the European Court of Justice.

Erik Wesselius of Corporate Europe Observatory says:

"the Court of First Instance's judgement is very good news for all those (both inside and outside the institutions) who want to improve transparency in EU decision-making."

The Court of First Instance?s judgement means that the Commission will no longer be able to justify withholding names of individual lobbyists who communicate opinions or information to it by referring to EU data privacy protection rules.

The ruling confirms a recent decision by the European Ombudsman, Nikiforos Diamandouros, on a complaint filed by Corporate Europe Observatory after Directorate-General Trade -- led by Peter Mandelson - had started blanking out the names of industry lobbyists in correspondence, minutes of meetings and other documents released under EU access to document rules. The Ombudsman rejected this practice as "maladministration". After the Court of First Instance?s judgement, Corporate Europe Observatory now expects the Ombudsman to take action
to ensure that the Commission releases the uncensored version of the requested DG Trade documents.

The Court of First Instance's verdict will also make it hard for lobbyists to justify not registering in the new EU lobbying disclosure database which EU Commissioner Siim Kallas will launch next spring as part of the European Transparency Initiative.

Contact:
Erik Wesselius, Corporate Europe Observatory
+31-6-38204887 (mobile) or +31-30-2364422 (land line)

Notes

1. The Court of First Instance?s judgement is published here: http://curia.europa.eu

2. In October 2005, Corporate Europe Observatory, an Amsterdam-based lobby watchdog, submitted a complaint against the European Commission after Directorate-General Trade -- led by Peter Mandelson - had started blanking out the names of industry lobbyists in correspondence, minutes of meetings and other documents released under EU access to document rules. Corporate Europe Observatory has over the last years attempted to monitor DG Trade?s relations with corporate lobby groups such as the European Services Forum, which by many civil society groups are seen to enjoy privileged access and influence over EU trade policies. The Commission argued that the disclosure of the names of the lobbyists would ?undermine the protection of the privacy and the integrity of the individual? and referred to data protection rules as a justification for the secrecy.

In his decision (dated July 16 2007), the Ombudsman concludes that "the complainant?s allegation that the Commission failed to comply with its duty to provide proper access to documents under regulation 1049/2001 appears to be founded. This would constitute an instance of maladministration by the Commission."

3. Corporate Europe Observatory is an Amsterdam-based EU lobby
watchdog group. See also: http://www.corporateeurope.org/aboutceo.html