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 Dion Kramer
In November 2014 the Dano judgment attracted unusual public attention, not least because of its importance for UK Prime-Minister David Cameron’s campaign against the phenomenon of ‘welfare tourism’. Although political and administrative attention has been redirected towards the mounting refugee crisis, scholars, administrators and some politicians have been eagerly awaiting the CJEU’s Alimanovic judgment in the sensitive field of EU citizens’ right to equal treatment as regards access to national welfare benefits. Dano made clear that Member States may reject claims to social assistance by EU citizens who have no intention to work and cannot support themselves. Alimanovic gave the Court the opportunity to clarify the application of this principle in the more complicated factual situation of an EU citizen who applies for social benefits after having worked for 11 months. In its bid to contribute to ‘legal certainty’ and ‘transparency’, Member States will for sure welcome the Court’s judgment, but the legacy of Brey still complicates the desired carte blanche for national authorities to refuse any claim to social assistance by indigent EU citizens. Continue reading
By Alberto Alemanno and Laurent Pech
This post originally appeared on the Verfassungsblog.
Recent media coverage of the EU Court of Justice suggests that the period of ‘benign neglect by the powers that be and the mass media’ – once described by Professor Eric Stein – may well be truly over once and for all. The most unexpected aspect of this rather unique level of media attention is that it does not directly concern any particular judicial ruling by a Court, which, since it decided its first case in 1954, has issued more than 28,000 judgments and orders. Instead, the Court of Justice (CJ) and its President, Mr Vassilios Skouris, have been subject to unprecedented media scrutiny following intense internal infighting about a contentious proposal which officially aims to ‘reinforce the efficiency of justice at EU level’ by doubling the number of judges working at the General Court (GC).
If one thing resorts clearly from the ACTA saga, it is that the atmosphere of secrecy in which ACTA was negotiated (required allegedly to enable mutual trust between the parties in the negotiations) completely backfired and deteriorated trust in the European Commission by European citizens and the European Parliament, resulting in ACTA’s ultimate demise. In a case decided yesterday by the General Court this tension between secrecy needed for the effective conduct of negotiations and the right of citizens to be informed was readily apparent in determining whether the Commission was acting lawfully in its decision to refuse access to documents related to those negotiations to European Member of Parliament Sophie in ‘t Veld.