GREEN/EFA group PRESS RELEASE, Strasbourg, 16 November 2000
Vote on Access to Documents in the EU institutions

EU transparency rules stall half way

The Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament today regrets that the plenary in Strasbourg did not take the chance to propose a coherent and clear regulation for the access to EU documents and improve the Commission's proposal on the issue.

Speaking after the vote on the Cashman report, Heidi Hautala, President of the Green/EFA Group and the draftsperson on the issue in the Legal Affairs Committee said:

"We are deeply disappointed that the amendments of the Green/EFA Group were not carried in the plenary. They would have significantly improved the Commission 's proposal for a regulation on public access to documents. Unfortunately, the responsible draftsman did not seem willing to compromise on key points, regardless of continuous efforts by the Greens/EFA, ELDR and a number of NGOs."

"Nevertheless, the report is moving in the right direction and improves some aspects of the Commission's proposal which would have kept too many exceptions for the access to documents. But the improvements fall short of being a really good set of transparency rules."

"While fully understanding that in some areas of defence and security policy a certain confidentiality has to be guaranteed, we think there should be no catch-all exception to the access to documents. A 'harm-test' on a case-by-case basis should be applied to determine if there are valid reasons to refuse the access to a document."

"We also insist the preparatory documents should be made accessible to the public. This is important to enable public participation in the political decision-making process."

The Greens/EFA Group also criticised giving the European Parliament a privileged right to confidential information in the scope of this report, since the regulation should deal with citizen's rights to access documents.

Joost Lagendijk MEP (Netherlands) said:

"We are opposed to include inter-institutional provisions like the select committee into this regulation. The right of the European Parliament to access documents in the field of security and defence does not replace the right of the public to access those documents.We think that this would be an unbalanced element in this regulation."

"Furthermore we think a dubious link is made between a procedure under way to have the Council withdraw the so-called Solana decision, and the legislative work we are involved now. It is inappropriate to make in the coming negotiations the rights of the citizens dependent on the privileges for MEPs."

Inger Schörling MEP (Sweden) said:

"It was a good decision to postpone the final vote on the Cashman Report to give some more time for negotiations with the Council and the Commission. We must use this time to get some real improvements, so that under the Swedish presidency the EU institutions will get transparency rules that live up to the justified expectations of our citizens."

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