It was back in October when I discovered that on 29 June 2011 the EU Ombudsman had opened an own-initiative case against the EU Council regarding the appeals procedure (‘confirmatory application’) for access to documents requests. In short, the observation was that more or less all confirmatory applications in the Council had been handled outside the basic time limits of 15 working days over the last three years.
In a blog post in May, I had noticed this delay in one of my own requests, arguing that this was because of bad organisation of the procedures in the Council: The Working Party on Information that deals with the appeals meets only every two weeks, thus making close to all appeals that are not dealt immediately during the next meeting delayed beyond the basic time limit.
Now, on the agenda of last week’s Working Party on Information (PDF), there were two interesting items under “Any other business”:
- Confirmatory applications with written consultation of the Working Party – Information by the Chair and by the Council’s Legal Service
- Reply by the Council Secretariat to the own inquiry by the Ombudsman (OI/3/2011/KM) of 30 January 2012; doc. 5265/12 – Information by the chair
So far, doc 5265/12, i.e. the reply sent at the end of January to the Ombudsman regarding his inquiry (note: the Ombudsman requested a reply until 31 August 2011 in his complaint letter – that’s a delay of just five months), is still a non-public document, but the first item indicates what would be a logical solution to the problem of dealing with confirmatory applications only during bi-weekly meetings: Do it through a written procedure.
Yet, since the answer to the Ombudsman is kept confidential, we don’t know whether the Council found that this is actually a legally and practically workable solution and whether this is what it replied to the Ombudsman.
I’d say the public whose rights are concerned should know…