The ClientEarth Aarhus Centre, together with Friends of the Earth Europe, addressed a petition to the European Parliament, supported by 19 European civil society organisations from various sectors, about public access to documents, with particular focus on environmental information. This petition aims at drawing the attention to the Parliament on the repeated failure of the European Commission to comply with its legal obligations under Regulation 1049/2001 on Public Access to European Parliament, Council and Commission Documents, the Aarhus Convention and the related Regulation on the Application of the Provisions of the Aarhus Convention to EU institutions and bodies (Regulation 1367/2006). By documenting the various types of failures that have been encountered by the NGOs over the last several years the petition shows a systemic trend towards secrecy rather than disclosure in the European Commission’s answers to public access to documents requests.
This pattern of behaviour strongly hampers our ability to take part in the policy and decision-making processes in the EU. Initiatives to challenge the Commission’s refusal to disclose information, such as complaints to the European Ombudsman or Court cases, even when successful, have not triggered the systemic change that is needed in the Commission’s behaviour in order to ensure greater openness and transparency. For each type of failure documented in the petition, there is a detailed annex, which lists specific examples of related requests. The Commission’s failures include:
- Failure to comply with time-limits to reply to access to documents requests;
- Failure to comply with the Aarhus Convention;
- Failure to actively disseminate environmental information;
- Failure to demonstrate that there is no overriding public interest in disclosure;
- Failure to comply with decisions of the European Ombudsman.
By lodging this petition we aim at putting more political pressure on the Commission to fully comply with the relevant texts and to prevent it from carrying out a double language with the European Parliament.
There will be a public hearing in the Parliament in due time which we will inform you about following which the Parliament may take a resolution addressed to the Commission.