EP wil meer transparantie EU-documenten (en)
No legislative documents should be kept secret: this must be a basic principle of the reformed policy on access to documents, the European Parliament says in a vote on a new EU rules on the issue. Members adopted amendments to the draft proposal but postponed the vote on the legislative resolution, leaving the door open for further negotiations and a first-reading agreement.
The European Parliament adopted amendments on the basis of a codecision report drafted by Michael CASHMAN (PES, UK) in order to revise the 2001 regulation on access to documents, which has been followed by a number of rulings by the Court of Justice. The revised regulation will incorporate these rulings into a single framework for all the institutions, but MEPs want to go further.
Legislative vote postponed
MEPs adopted the amended proposal by 439 votes in favour, 200 against and 57 abstentions, but postponed the vote on the legislative resolution in order to leave the possibility for the European commission to modify its proposal, and for the European Parliament to negotiate a first reading agreement with Council after the summer, as a new parliamentary term will start in June. Council will then be chaired by the Swedish presidency, which made a priority of the issue of transparency and already welcomed the Cashman report in a public declaration.
In its report, the House includes amendments clarifying the term "document", defining it as any data or content, whatever its medium, concerning a matter relating to the policies, activities and decisions falling within the institution's sphere of responsibility. MEPs also make a distinction between legislative and non-legislative documents: the former should always be available to the public and may not be kept secret on the grounds that this could undermine the decision-making process of the institutions. Measures of general scope adopted by the Council and the Commission without associating the European Parliament shall also be considered "legislative" by way of exception.
Transparency in Member States too
Documents originating from a Member State and received by the EU institutions should also be disclosed, after consultation of the Member state - but this does not give them a right of veto, MEPs say. Member States shall seek to ensure that an equivalent level of transparency is granted in relation to national measures implementing acts of the EU.
The text also protects political activity and independence of MEPs, reminding that documents and electronic records which an MEP has received, drafted or sent are not to be considered as "documents" in the sense of this regulation, as they are covered by the Statute for Members of the European Parliament.
A single EU portal on the web
Parliament added an article on legislative transparency, stating that these documents must be available on an inter-institutional website. Preparatory documents, impact studies, legal opinions and other documents must also be published.
"EU classified": a new category of documents
MEPs have also devised a scale for classifying documents, from "EU restricted" to "EU top secret", for documents whose unauthorised disclosure could harm the interests of the European Union or its Member States. Reasons must be given why access to a document is refused. And documents on legislative procedures must not be classified, say MEPs.
Exceptions shall only apply for the period during which protection is justified and may only apply for 30 years, unless the exception relates to the privacy or integrity of the individual.
Information relating to the EU budget, its implementation and beneficiaries of EU funds and grants should also be public and accessible to citizens via a specific website.
Documents on International agreements to be made public
International accords on the sharing of confidential information concluded in the name of the EU (such as the agreement with the USA on passenger name records or "PNR"), must not give a non-EU country or an international organisation the right to prevent the European Parliament from accessing confidential information.
Members also call the Commission to make available all documents related to the ongoing international negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) - which will contain a new international benchmark on intellectual property right enforcement.
A register of lobbyists
MEPs call for an inter-institutional register of lobbyists to be set up, and the names, titles and functions of the lobbyists should be made public, as should those of EU officials, unless this information would affect the privacy or integrity of the individual.
A special oversight committee made up of MEPs should be set up and should have access to classified documents. Each directorate-general of every institution should designate a person responsible for ensuring that the regulation is properly implemented.
Lastly, requests for paper copies of documents must be processed within 15 days, as compared to the 30 days suggested in the initial proposal.