By Maarten Hillebrandt
Public Access to Documents in the EU, by Leonor Rossi and Patricia Vinagre e Silva, (Oxford/Portland, Hart Publishing, 2017, ISBN 9781509905331); xxxviii + 340pp.; £49.00 hb.
Access to EU Documents: A Policy in Three Acts
On 7 February, the EU celebrated a remarkable anniversary. Exactly twenty-five years ago on that day, the Heads of State and Government (HSG) of the European Community’s then twelve Member States took the bold leap forward by signing the Maastricht Treaty. Another leap forward lay tucked away in one of the Treaty’s accompanying texts, even when the Member States’ representatives did not realise it at the time of signing. Declaration 17, attached to the Maastricht Treaty, recognised the positive relation between transparency and democracy, and professed an intention to take steps to advance such transparency. Thus began the First Act of a transformative development called Access to Documents.
In the years that followed, much ground was covered. Under the pressure of public opinion, the declaration turned out to have more bite than the HSG had envisaged. In an attempt to defuse the crisis that emerged after the Danish rejection and French near-rejection of the Maastricht Treaty, Declaration 17 went from a European Council statement to a Commission report, and from a Commission report into a code of conduct, which eventually led to internal decisions on access to documents adopted successively by the Council (1993), the Commission (1993) and the European Parliament (1997). Less than two years after a hortatory political declaration in a footnote of a treaty, EU access to documents thus entered into its Second Act. Continue reading
By Mario García
In recent months, the Spanish Constitutional Court (SCC) has issued a series of decisions related to EU law that show an interesting combination of both openness toward the European legal order and a certain degree of apprehension to the growing role of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in constitutional matters. In these cases the SCC has arrived at fairly pro-EU results: the SCC decided that preliminary references from Spanish courts to the CJEU take precedence over constitutional questions submitted to the SCC, and that a non-transposed, directly-effective EU Directive can be taken as a factor in the interpretation of a constitutional provision. But, as discussed below, the details subtly suggest that the SCC does not fully agree with the ways in which the CJEU has asserted its institutional position, and prefers to avoid potential conflicts in the future. Continue reading
By Benedikt Pirker
Arguably one of the most important international environmental agreements of our days, the Aarhus Convention (AC), obliges its contracting parties to provide access to information, public participation and access to justice in environmental matters. Based on a communication by the NGO ClientEarth, the Compliance Committee – the compliance mechanism put in place under the AC – handed down an important decision (called ‘findings and recommendations’ in the Aarhus terminology) with regard to the European Union on 17 March 2017. The present post aims to highlight the most important findings of the Committee, which – in no uncertain terms – criticized a number of features of current EU law as a failure to implement the AC. Continue reading
By Darren Harvey
Following the delivery by Sir Tim Barrow of a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk notifying the European Council of the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU, the two-year time period within which the UK and EU shall negotiate and conclude a withdrawal agreement has commenced.
According to Article 50(2) TEU, the first step in this process is for the European Council to agree upon a set of guidelines defining the framework for the EU side of the negotiations.
A first draft of these guidelines was circulated by European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday 31st March 2017.
The purpose of this post is to follow up from a post written last October on the role of the European Council and the Brexit process. Continue reading
By Anne Friel
On 23rd November the Court of Justice handed down its judgment in appeal case C-673/13 P European Commission v Greenpeace Nederland and Pesticide Action Network Europe, confirming a broad interpretation of the concept of “information which relates to emissions into the environment” in the context of pesticides. According to the EU’s access to documents laws, public authorities, including the EU institutions, cannot disclose information that would harm the commercial interests of a third party unless there is an overriding public interest in doing so. And if the information relates to emissions into the environment, there is an irrebuttable presumption that disclosure is in the public interest (Article 4(4)(d) of the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, implemented with regard to the EU institutions by Article 6(1) of Regulation 1367/2006 (the Aarhus Regulation)). Consequently, a broad interpretation of the term “information which relates to emissions into the environment” has a direct impact on the ability of companies to protect commercially sensitive information. The long list of international, European and American pesticide lobbies that intervened in the case bears witness to this. Continue reading
Call for Papers: Regional Human Rights Systems in Crisis
Wisconsin International Law Journal Annual Forum, University of Wisconsin, 31 March 2017. Deadline for abstract submission: 23 September 2016.
Call for Papers: EUSA Conference “Uncertain Destinations: The European Union at 60”
Miami, 4-6 May 2017. Deadline for abstract submission: 30 September 2016.
Call for Papers: Workshop on the legislative choice between delegated and implementing rule-making
German Research Institute for Public Administration, Speyer, 20 March 2017. Deadline for abstract submission: 10 October 2016.
Conference: An Administrative Procedure Act for the EU?
Lund University, 24 November 2016. Deadline for (free) registration: 10 November 2016.
Conference “The Concept of International Constitutional Law”
Vienna University of Economics and Business, 23 September 2016. Deadline for (free) registration : 16 September 2016.
Conference “Movement of People – A Comparative Conference on Migration”
University of Hamburg, 23-24 September 2016. (Free) registration necessary.
Conference “An Administrative Procedure Act for the EU?”
University of Lund, 24 November 2016. Deadline for (free) registration : 10 November 2016.
By Elinor Pecsteen
Recently, journalists from all EU member states raised, for the first time ever, a joint voice before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) against the refusal of the European Parliament (EP) to give access, on grounds of personal data protection, to information on how MEPs spend their allowances.
This development is no surprise as the endeavour by individuals and non-governmental organisations alike to hold the EU to its democratic imperative of openness and transparency has been a clearly increasing tendency over the years. However, meeting the expectations of the civil society is not always an easy task for the EU institutions, which must keep a fair balance between transparency and the protection of an individual’s privacy and integrity throughout their processes.
This balance has become essential in the present context of increasing numbers of requests for public access to EU institutions documents containing personal data. Yet, the question remains unclear as to when it is legitimate for an institution to refuse access to documents on the ground of personal data protection.
The following post attempts to shed some light on this question by discussing two recent CJEU judgments whose common threads allow for some interesting consistency to be found in the Court’s logic. On the basis of these judgments, it would seem that for the Court, the use of personal data protection as a justification for refusing requests for access to documents should be restricted. Such requests are essential to increase the confidence of citizens in the EU and require that, provided the conditions are fulfilled, full access be given to the institutions’ documents, personal data included. The Court specifies that the context of public mistrust in the EU and the potential dual role of its decision-makers must weigh in the institutions’ assessment of the conditions. Continue reading
Conference “The European Union as an Actor in International Economic Law”
University of Luxembourg, 1-2 October 2015. Deadline for registration: 30 September 2015.
Conference “Criminal Justice: Jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice – Today and Future”
Court of Justice of the European Union, 2-3 October 2015. (Paid) registration required.
Inaugural CMLRev Conference “Membership of the Union and Membership of the Euro”
University of Liverpool, 9 October 2015. (Free) registration required.
Workshop “Mutual Legal Assistance in the Digital Age: Problems, Challenges, Solutions for Criminal Justice”
University of Luxembourg, 15 October 2015. (Free) registration required.
Workshop “A balanced data protection in the EU: conflicts and possible solutions”
UM Campus Brussels, University of Maastricht, 19 October 2015. (Paid) registration required.
Conference “Migration Policy in the European Union – Current Challenges and Future Developments”
University of Luxembourg, 22-23 October 2015.
Call for submissions for the 2016 edition of the Hibernian Law Journal
Deadline for submissions: 31 October 2015.
EIUC Training for International Electoral Observers
Monastery of San Nicolò, 23-28 November 2015. Deadline for application: 30 October 2015.
Workshop “Victims in Europe – Needs, Rights, Perspectives”
University of Luxembourg, 16 November 2015.
Colloquium “The Environment in Court – Environmental Protection in National and International Courts, Tribunals, and Compliance Mechanisms”
PluriCourts, University of Oslo, 20-25 June 2016. Deadline for abstract submissions: 15 January 2016.
Conference “International Litigation in Europe: the Brussels I Recast as a panacea?”
Verona University, 28-29 November 2014. Deadline for registration: 20 November 2014.
Workshop “L’ordre juridique de l’Union européenne sous l’angle de son action extérieure/The Legal Order of the European Union from the Perspective of Its External Action”
University of Luxembourg, 24 November 2014. (Free) registration required.
The Treaty of Lisbon and EU Criminal Law – Five Years On
University of Innsbruck, 1 December 2014. (Free) registration required.
Third REALaw Research Forum “Judicial Coherence in the European Union”
University of Utrecht, 30 January 2015. Deadline for abstract submission: 1 December 2014.
13th Jean Monnet Seminar “EU Law and Risk Regulation”
Inter-University Center, Dubrovnik, 19-25 April 2015. Deadline for paper proposal submissions: 15 January 2015.