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Transparency (access to documents)

The institutions of the European Union (EU) have the responsibility of conducting their work as transparently as possible.

Article 15 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union gives EU citizens, as well as any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State, the right of access to documents of the institutions.

The regulation of 30 May 2001 implements this right of access to documents of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. However, it also provides for two types of exceptions: cases in which access is automatically refused (for reasons of public security, defence, international relations) and cases in which access is refused (for example, to protect the commercial interests of a private individual), except where there is an overriding public interest in disclosure.

This access to documents is facilitated through the implementation of an electronic public register.

The concept of transparency refers to the openness of the Union institutions and to their clear functioning. Transparency is linked to the citizens' demands for wider access to information and documents, as well as for greater involvement in the decision-making process, which would help foster a feeling of closeness to the Union.

Already in 1993, the Council and the Commission had adopted a code of conduct setting out common principles on the right of access to information. On the basis of this code of conduct, the two institutions incorporated specific provisions on access to their documents into their rules of procedure.

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