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Access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents
The purpose of this Regulation is to set out the principles, conditions and limits governing the right of access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents provided for in Article 255 of the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC). It also aims to establish rules ensuring the exercise of this right and to promote good administrative practices on access to documents.
Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.
The purpose of this Regulation is to facilitate access to the documents * of the European institutions. It provides that citizens may access any type of documents, subject to the conditions defined in the Regulation and the exceptions laid out therein. It applies to all documents held by an institution, that is to say, documents drawn up or received by it and in its possession, in all areas of activity of the European Union (EU).
Beneficiaries are any EU citizens and any natural or legal persons residing or having their headquarters in a Member State.
Exceptions and rights of third parties
The institutions can refuse access to a document where disclosure would undermine the protection of:
- the public interest as regards public security, defence, international relations, and the financial, monetary or economic policy of the Community or a Member State;
- privacy and the integrity of an individual, in particular in accordance with Community legislation regarding the protection of personal data;
- a person's commercial interests;
- court proceedings and legal advice;
- the purpose of inspections, investigations and audits.
The European institutions may refuse to disclose a particular document if this is justified by an overriding public interest.
Access to a document drawn up by an institution for internal use may be refused if disclosure of the document would seriously undermine the institution's decision-making process, unless there is an overriding public interest in disclosure.
As regards third-party documents *, the institution must consult the third party with a view to assessing whether an exception is applicable.
Documents in the Member States
Where a Member State receives a request for a document in its possession, originating from an institution, the Member State consults with the institution concerned, in order to take a decision that does not jeopardise the attainment of the objectives of this Regulation. The Member State may instead refer the request to the institution.
Applications, processing of applications and access to documents
Applications for access to a document must be made in written form, including electronic form, in one of the languages of the EU. The applicant is not obliged to state reasons for the application.
An application for access to a document must be handled promptly. An acknowledgement of receipt must be sent to the applicant. Within 15 working days from the registration of the application, the institution must either grant access to the document requested, or refuse access.
In the event of total or partial refusal, the applicant may, within 15 working days of receiving the institution's reply, make a confirmatory application asking the institution to reconsider its position.
The applicant has access to documents either by consulting them on the spot or by receiving a copy.
Treatment of sensitive documents
Sensitive documents are documents originating from the institutions or the agencies established by them, from Member States, third countries or international organisations, classified as "TRÈS SECRET/TOP SECRET", "SECRET" or "CONFIDENTIAL". Applications for access to sensitive documents must be handled only by those persons who have a right to acquaint themselves with those documents. Sensitive documents are recorded in the register or released only with the consent of the originator.
Registers and administrative practice
To facilitate access to documents, each institution must provide access to a register of documents. Access to the register should be provided in electronic form.
The Member States must cooperate with the institutions in providing information to the citizens. The institutions must develop good administrative practices, in order to facilitate the exercise of the right of access guaranteed by this Regulation. They must establish an inter-institutional committee to examine best practice, address possible conflicts and discuss future developments on public access to documents.
Publication in the Official Journal
The following documents are published in the Official Journal:
- Commission proposals;
- common positions adopted pursuant to Articles 251 and 252 of the EC Treaty;
- framework decisions, decisions and conventions referred to in Article 34 of the Treaty on European Union (EU Treaty);
- conventions signed between Member States on the basis of Article 293 of the EC Treaty;
- international agreements concluded by the Community or in accordance with Article 24 of the EU Treaty.
Reports and application measures
Every year, each institution publishes a report for the preceding year, indicating the number of cases in which the institution refused to grant access to documents, the reasons for such refusals and the number of sensitive documents not recorded in the register.
|Act||Entry into force||Deadline for transposition in the Member States||Official Journal|
|Regulation No 1049/2001||
OJ L 145 of 31.5.2001