Chair of European Parliament's Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights expresses concern over the Council's draft common position on access to EU documents

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Graham Watsom MEP, the Chair of the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights in the European Parliament, has written to the Council of the European Union (representing the 15 EU governments) expressing strong concern that the Council has not even considered the European Parliament's report on the issue. He says that the Council's Working Party on Information "is essentially discussing the Commission proposal" and that he fears "that there is a risk of the rejection of the Council's common position by the European Parliament": Watson letter (pdf file)

The letter, dated 18 December, was sent to the permanent representatives of France (the outgoing EU Presidency) and Sweden (the incoming Presidency) in Brussels. In it Graham Watson takes up a number of fundamental issues in the Council's draft common position:

First, he says that any refusal of access to a document "must be based on the exceptions defined in the Regulation". He attacks the idea that the so-called "author" of a document should have a right to veto access. Access to documents from "third parties", whether EU Member States or international organisations such as NATO, should be determined by the EU institution holding the document, access he says "cannot be subject to goodwill or otherwise of the third party".

Second, the special rules planned by the Council for "sensitive documents" appears "to the the "authorship principle" by another name".

Third, Graham Watson rejects any idea that applications for access to documents should be forwarded to the institution which is the "author" to decide whether to give access.

Finally, he says that the "restrictive definition of documents" which would exclude permanently from access "internal documents and preparatory documents" especially as the Council's draft common position proposes to introduce an exception to refuse access where it would seriously undermine the "effectiveness of the institution's decision-making process". This is: "effectively a double exclusion of internal documents" and is "both excessive and unnecessary in a modern public administration".

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