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A well-reformed EUR-Lex would be sexy indeed: A short story on access to EU documents

In December, I wrote a post on this blog titled “A new EUR-Lex: Finding EU documents 2.0?“. The starting point for this article was a non-public EU Council document titled “A new EUR-Lex“.

I wasn’t satisfied with the fact that I could not access this document – something that happens frequently on “The quest for EU documents” – and so on 20 December 2010 I did a Freedom of Information request to the EU Council Secretariat.

I first tried a request via Twitter (here), but the EU Council Press team quickly answered and directed me to the electronic form for Freedom of Information (FOI) requests at the Council.

My request was as follows:

Dear Sir or Madam,

I’d like to get public access to any document that are related to EUR-Lex and it’s renewal and that were relevant for the agenda of the Working Party on e-Law meeting on 20 Dec 2010 (today). To my knowledge these are, in particular:

17427/10, 17428/10, 17431/10

Kind regards,

Ronny Patz

PS.: I’d prefer to get access to the digital versions of the documents.

Due to the holiday break, I only received an answer yesterday (~4 weeks); the time limit set by Regulation 1049/2001 for FOI requests is 15 working (!) days. But now I have the documents; they have been sent to me by email yesterday in Word format and now they are accessible also on the Council’s public register.

Here they are: 17327/10, 17428/10 & 17431/10 – the most interesting is the last document which gives you a fairly good view on the timeline for the renewal of EUR-Lex.

This story shows that when you come to a dead end on your quests for EU (Council) documents, don’t hesitate to ask for information that is not yet public. It also shows that a Freedom of Information request is not just good for the person/organisation requesting the information, but that documents requested also enter into public registers afterwards, making them accessible for everybody. And it underlines that still a lot of EU documents that could easily be published are not made public yet.

Now the reform of EUR-Lex isn’t that sexy and requesting documents thereon isn’t either – why would journalists write about this? – but making access to EU documents easier for the public through a reform EUR-Lex is good for a more transparent and democratic EU. It would be better for us academics who try to make sense of the EU and often need legal documents and official documents. And it would be good for journalists writing about EU politics, often under time pressure and without the time to search overly complicated document registers.

So while the EUR-Lex reform is not sexy, a well-reformed EUR-Lex would be sexy indeed.

PS.: By the way – the next meeting of the Council Working Party on e-Law dealing with these issues is on 24 January.

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