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