THE GREENS/EFA IN THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, PRESS RELEASE, Brussels, 19 October 2000
Green/EFA success in defending citizens' rights on access to documents
Parliament Followed Green/EFA initiative to take Council and Solana to Court
The Greens/EFA Group welcomes today's decision by the European Parliament to take Council to European Court of Justice for limiting the rights of EU citizens on access to documents. The decision was taken by a majority of the leaders of the political groups (in the so-called Conference of Presidents). In a decision on 26 July, Council established new, top-secret classification for documents in the field of security and defence, which seriously infringed the rights of citizens and Parliament on access to documents. This move was dubbed "Solana's Coup" after the Council's Secretary General and High Representative in Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana.
Following the vote Heidi Hautala, President of the Green/EFA Group, declared:
"This is a big victory for the Greens/European Free Alliance who have fought for weeks to defend citizens' right to access documents. We thank all the other political groups who supported our fight for more transparency in the European Union. In taking legal action against Council, Parliament has also defended its own rights to have co-decision on transparency matters, as established in the Amsterdam Treaty."
The Greens took the initiative on access to documents when Heidi Hautala proposed in Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee (4 September) to take Council to the Court of Justice. In today's Conference of Presidents, the European People's party, the Liberals, the European Left and the EDD voted with the Greens, whereas the Socialists, UEN and TDI abstained.
Heidi Hautala added:
"Fortunately, all last minute efforts by certain political groups and governments to stop this important action failed. Parliament wisely refused today Council's fake offer to establish a joint Committee to arbitrate on access to documents. The idea of a so-called select committee has to be carefully examined in order to guarantee the Parliament's right for most confidential information. But this is not an adequate solution for the right of citizens on access to documents.
We are delighted that also the Dutch Government has decided to take legal action against Council. The Netherlands are a perfect example that also a NATO country is able to defend transparency in the EU."
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