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No April Fools’ Day joke: Waiting eight months for one EU document

I would love to say that this is an April Fools’ Day joke, but it ain’t. Eight months ago, I have requested 1 document from the European Commission, and I still have not received anything.

Initially, access was refused and the ordinary deadlines prolonged, even beyond the legal limits set by EU law. At the same time, the Commission changed the classification of the type of documents I had requested that would make it more difficult to request them in the future. Finally, a promise was made in December that I might get a reply in January – after six months – but it was not kept.

After writing three emails, one in January, one last week and one at the end of this week, I received the following reply from the Commission:

“My appologies for not having reacted to your messages earlier. As you have been informed by us already in January, we aim at granting a very wide access to the document you have requested.

However, since the document concerned are minutes of a meeting of high-level officials dealing with a significant number of diverse issues, some of them rather sensitive, the process of internal consultation has proved to be particularly difficult and is still ongoing.

I am afraid I cannot provide you with a more specific timeline as this does not depend solely on me. Once again, my appologies for the delay.”

I honestly assume good will on the side of the Transparency Unit in the European Commission Secretariat. However, where is the sense in access to documents rights guaranteed by the Lisbon Treaty and clear procedures set by EU law on how to handle request for documents when they can be delayed even without detailed explanations of the why?

In March, the Working Party on Information of the EU Council has met twice to discuss the ongoing reform of the access to documents regulation. When you read the summary of these meetings, it is hard to identify any considerable will to strengthen citizens rights and nothing that would help in cases like mine.

What about immediate partial release of all parts of the document where there are no difficulties followed by a prolonged procedure for more difficult parts? What about detailed explanations which Directorates General are slowing down the process or which issues make it so difficult to release the document? What about changing the access to documents procedure in such a way that, unless a clear objection is formulated within the time limits set, the document is to be considered public automatically (‘access by default’)?

The problem is that 8 months in the life of an administration may seem short, in the life of a citizen and academic they are pretty long. And I am tired of waiting.



2 Responses to No April Fools’ Day joke: Waiting eight months for one EU document

  1. EG/1049/2001 is very clear about administrativen time limits. Have you filed a confirmatory application? If you consider that reply an answer to a confirmatory application simply open an Ombudsman case.

    “Questions include whether the Lisbon treaty framework requires more openness than before;”

    Seems to me reform is not fast enough. Of course the Lisbon framework requires more openness than Nice. The most interesting provision was the new IP item in the Com proposal which appears harmless at first sight, in Article 4 (was: commercial aspect (incl IP)).

    The whole reform got derailed because MEPs added the Lisbon-related reforms while Nice was still in force, then referred back to Committee stage. This way the project got the branding to be too ambitious. And when Lisbon entered into force they didn’t open the pipe. It got only adopted in late 2011 after the Commission already presented another minimalistic interim proposal for the Lisbon conformance.

  2. avatar Ronny Patz says:

    Sure I have filed a confirmatory application. And I don’t want to file another Ombudsman proceedings, I’ve already one ongoing. It gets on my nerves.

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