EU secrecy proposals plus full-text documents (below)


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Any citizen of the Union.. shall have a right of access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents..

Article 255 of the Treaty establishing the European Communities (TEC, Amsterdam Treaty)

This Treaty marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen

Article A of the new Treaty on the European Union (TEU, Amsterdam Treaty)


an embargo could be imposed.. to delay access to certain documents to avoid any interference in the decision-making process and to prevent premature publication of a document from giving rise to "misunderstandings" or jeopardising the interest of the institution (eg: granting access to preparatory documents only after the formal adoption of a decision..)

Discussion paper on public access to Commission documents, 23 April 1999 and summarising the discussions held between "officials" from the European Parliament, Council and Commission

The effect of proposals drawn up by senior officials from the Council, Commission and European Parliament would deny citizens and civil society access to documents in direct contravention of the Amsterdam Treaty.

The Amsterdam Treaty built on the successful challenges by citizens, in the Court of Justice and through the European Ombudsman, by explicitly establishing a right of access in EU Community law.

It now appears that the forces for secrecy in the EU - referred to at a Conference on secrecy and openness in Brussels on 26 April as the "dinosaurs" - are trying, under the cloak of advancing the objective of the Amsterdam Treaty, to turn the turn the clock back so that the institutions can control what documents are to be released, to whom they will be released and when they will be released.

The European Commission has the job of presenting the views of the three institutions, first in a discussion paper and second, by drawing up a draft Regulation to cover all three institutions. Below are copies of two draft Commission Discussion papers, the existing 1993 Council Decision on public access to documents and the Statewatch press release on the new proposals.


1. Draft Communications to the Commission from the President on public access to Commission documents, 22 January 1999 (this document was "leaked" to Statewatch)

2. Discussion Paper on public access to Commission documents, 23 April 1999

3. Council Decision (20.12.93) on public access to Council documents

4. Statewatch press release, 26 April 1999

Coverage of EU secrecy in Statewatch bulletin (up to February 1998):

5. Statewatch complaints to the European Ombudsman and secrecy

6. The Guardian case

To keep up to date subscribe to Statewatch bulletin, which monitors civil liberties in the European Union. Six issues a year, just £15.00 a year in the UK and Europe ( £18.00 outside Europe). Order details

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