EEB calls for amendments to EP report on access to EU documents to be supported
European Environmental Bureau, Brussels, 15 November 2000
Concerning: Recommendations for Vote on Report Cashman on Regulation regarding Public Access to EP, Council and Commission documents (COM(2000) 30 - C5-0057/2000 - 2000/0032(COD) November 16, 2000
To Members of the European Parliament
Tomorrow you will vote on a report that has great significance for the further development of the European Union as a democratic society. Transparency is a must to create confidence between the public and its public authorities. With the frightening low interest for the most recent elections for the European Parliament in the background, drastic improvement of the Commission's proposal should be of concern for you.
For us it is a concern as well. Environmental organisations strongly believe that transparency and public participation are essential building blocks to effective, public supported, environmental policies, and essential for the realisation of sustainable development.
The European Environmental Bureau is the largest federation of environmental organisations in Europe. We have been looking at the Commission proposal from the experience we have in Member Countries and the requirements the Aarhus Convention (on access to information, public participation in Decisionmaking and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters) put to the European Community (a signatory of this convention). The Commission proposal needs drastic change. And the Parliament Committees that have been contributing to the Cashman report have already delivered an important contribution.
We call upon the European Parliament to follow the Cashman Report with the following exceptions:
Recital 9: do NOT adopt Amm. 15. Instead do adopt Amm. 71 of the Greens/EFA
Motive: Introduction of the concept of "informal information" is confusing and may lead to abuse.
Recital 12: Give preference to Amm. 72 of the Greens/EFA rather than Amm. 20. Both are better than Commission proposal.
Motive: Amm. 72 removes the explicit call for loyalty of the Member States to the EU regulation. This reduces the freedom of Member States to be more transparent than the EU Institutions.
Art. 1: Support Amm. 63 (ELDR). Second choice is 73 (Greens/EFA), third choice Amm. 25.
Motive: All three amendments introduce the issue of the rights of citizens outside the EU. Given the impact of EU policies on citizens in other countries, for example the Accession Countries, this is logical. Not introducing this is also violation of the Aarhus Convention. The ELDR proposal underlines the "widest and easiest possible public access". 63 and 73 make the rights of outside citizens the rule, the Cashman report amm. 25 makes it optional.
Art. 2: Support Amm. 74 of the Greens/EFA. Second choice Amm. 26.
Motive: the amendments protect the right for more progressive specific rules. The Greens/Ale make this explicit also for national rules.
Art. 3: Support Amm. 64 of ELDR and/or Amm. 75 of the Greens/EFA. Do NOT support Amm. 28, except for the part amending art. 3.b. (ask for split vote)
Motive: 64 and 75 take out the restrictions in the definition of "documents". We support that.The rapporteur via amm. 28 is bringing in the concept of "informal information" which is confusing and a recipe for abuse. Important element of amm. 28 is that it defines the Directorates General of the Commission explicitly as subsidiary bodies, so that correspondence between DG's fall explicitly under the Regulation.
Art. 3 a/bis: Support Amm. 80 of ELDR,instead of Amm. 29
Motive: Amm. 80 brings in some simple principles, Amm. 29 of the rapporteur refers to a classification system we do not support (see next point, on amm. 34)
Art. 4: - Preference for Amm. 76 of the Greens/EFA. Amm. 68 = 2nd choice, Amm.30 = 3rs
- Do NOT support Amm. 34
Motive: All three amendments are great improvements of the Commission Proposal. 76 brings in the weighing of the public interest of disclosure against specific interests for confidentiality in art. 4.1.a. 68 also brings this in, but reduces the protection of privacy ("may" instead of "shall"). The original Commission proposal is really unacceptable. Unlike the presentation in the Cashman report, the Commission proposes that institutions "shall" refuse access, rather than "may". So it is tying the hands of institutions/officials that want to go further in transparency.
With Amm. 34, the rapporteur proposes a complex system of classification of documents. It is bureaucratic and may lead to over-classification "to be on the safe side", creates an atmosphere of secrecy and is difficult to understand and challenge by the public.
Art. 6: Ask for split vote on Amm. 41, support part on art.6.1, but reject the change on 6.2. If split vote is not possible, vote for entire ammendment
Motive: Amm. 41 has important improvements, but it deletes the concept of: "no response is a positive response" to a confirmatory application. This was a good element in the Commission proposal, as it puts pressure upon the Institutions to respect the deadline and therewith the rights of the public.
Art. 8: Support 77 of ELDR rather than 44
Motive 77 is slightly better as it brings in the weighing with public interest
Art. 9: Support 66 of ELDR and 78 of Greens/EFA rather than 46.
Motive: 66 and 78 have identical texts (but 66 is addition instead of replacement, which is a minor difference). 46 is also better than the original text, but brings in the classification system that we do not support (see Art. 4, amm. 34).
John Hontelez, Secretary General EEB, Blvd De Waterloo 34, 1000 Brussels, phone: +32.2.289.1090, firstname.lastname@example.org
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