Netherlands takes Council to court over access to EU documents


The cabinet of the Netherlands decided today (22 September) to take the Council of the European Union (the EU member states) to the European Court of Justice over its decision to change the EU code of access to documents on 26 July, the "Solana/NATO Decision". The Netherlands government said in a statement that it contested the way the decision was made (with no consultation with national parliaments, the European Parliament, or civil society) and that it was wrong to exclude automatically whole categories of documents.

While the Netherlands agreed that decisions of EU common defence and foreign policy should be covered by the code of access this should not be applied to groups of documents and that each decision to refuse access should be justified on specific grounds. The Netherlands also disagrees with extending the blanket exclusion to so-called "non-military crisis management".

The Netherland government said that the the decision on 26 July by the Council contradicted the commitment in Article 255 of the Amsterdam Treaty to "enshrine" the public's right of access to documents.

On 13 September the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament voted to take the Council to court over their decision - without any consultation - to exclude whole categories of documents from public access: EP court decision

The Netherlands government has taken the Council to court over access to documents before and lost on a technicality, this time it has a substantial case: Statewatch legal analysis of the case against the Council

Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, said:

"The Council's decision to change the code on the public's right of access to EU documents was made without any consultation with parliaments or people. It could not have been taken in a more undemocratic way and is rightly being challenged by the European Parliament and the Netherlands government in the European Court of Justice.

Now the European Commission's demand that the so-called "space to think" for officials (public servants) is more important than the citizens' right to know how and why decisions are made has to be challenged."

Media enquiries to the spokesperson for the Netherlands government: 00 31 65 128 9656 (mobile)