Picture of the day
Staff from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined a large crowd outside the Greek Embassy in Brussels on Friday morning, 14 June, for a Solidarity Protest condemning the closure of Greek public broadcaster ERT, supporting the staff who were sacked, and calling for the Greek government to reverse its decision and put the broadcaster back on air.
07 June 2012
EFJ letters to French, German, and British Governments on Revision of Access to Documents
Here is the letter that was sent to french, german, and british governments and their competent ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice about the revision of the regulation on access to EU documents:
On behalf of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), and our affiliate, I am writing to you to raise our strong concerns regarding the latest draft deal on the proposed EU Regulation 1049/2001 on public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.
Specifically we urge you to join the Swedish and Finnish Ministers of Justice in calling for access to documents rules which are in line with the requirements of the Lisbon Treaty and which will ensure sufficient transparency and accountability of EU decision-making bodies to Member States and EU citizens alike.
The European Federation of Journalists has been seriously concerned about the position that the UK government has taken in these negotiations thus far which, according to documents we have obtained, is in favour of amendments to Regulation 1049 that would severely reduce public access to information about the decisions being taken in Brussels that affect our everyday lives and fundamental human rights.
We believe that the proposed amendments, which reflect a bureaucratic devotion to secrecy rather than a wish for greater transparency, is inconsistent with the UK’s global leadership role on transparency and open government, in particular its current co-chairmanship of the Open Government Partnership.
As the Danish presidency would like to conclude this deal by the end of June 2012, it is urgent that you now take the necessary steps to ensure that the right of access to documents - protected by the EU Treaties - is fully respected in the future regulation.
Whilst the current proposal has a few positive features, in the main it contains several proposals which will severely limit the right of access to information in a way that is inconsistent with international standards.
The following points are crucial to prevent a complete watering down of the existing access to documents regulation and the associated risk of a return to “the age of secrecy”. This would not fit into the concept of a modern EU, which can only be close to the citizens if as transparent as possible. Together with a large number of civil rights organisations we urge you to support the following points:
Support a broad definition of the term ‘a document’;
Reject block exemptions on court and investigative documents;
Reject a presumption that transparency undermines the protection of legal advice:
Limit the future use of national exemptions;
Reject new exemptions for staff selection and awarding of contracts and grants;
Ensure an adequate balance between transparency and protection of privacy;
Reject excessive time limits;
Reject limitations on accessing large numbers of documents.
We are particularly concerned about plans for a new Article 3a of the regulation that would restrict the scope of the rules in a way that would mean that ‘a document’ is only subject to the regulation when it is finalised, meaning that drafts and discussion prior to this would not be covered.
We also urge you to support greater transparency of the trialogue process which to date has been closed to the public and to non-governmental organisations, which have not been invited to comment on or participate in the revision of Regulation 1049/2001 on public access to EU documents since 2007. We believe that excluding the public from this debate is inconsistent with the Lisbon Treaty requirements for greater legislative transparency and for decisions to be taken as openly as possible and more closely to EU citizens.
We trust that you will act swiftly to amend the Council common position so that the final text of the Regulation will be fully in line with the right of access to documents as enshrined in the EU Treaties. We look forward to your response and are ready together with our affiliates to discuss with you any questions.
EFJ General Secretary