Brussels, 23 March 2011
Public access to documents: The European Commission proposes to extend rules to all EU institutions
The Commission has this week adopted a proposal extending the rules on public access to documents to all EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. The proposal will bring current rules into line with the Lisbon Treaty.
Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents was adopted on 30 May 2001. It is based on Article 255 of the Treaty establishing the European Community, which grants citizens and residents of the European Union a right of access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.
Shortly after the entry into force of this Regulation, its applicability was extended to the Community agencies. The European Central Bank, the European Investment Bank, the European Court of Auditors, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Committee of the Regions as well as Europol and Eurojust have all adopted - on a voluntary basis - rules on access to their documents which are identical or similar to the Regulation.
With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December 2009, the public right of access was formally extended to documents of all the Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. The Court of Justice, the European Central Bank and the European Investment Bank are covered, but only when they exercise administrative tasks.
Even if, in practice, almost all EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies apply rules on access to their documents, the current Regulation still needs to be amended, because it does not comply with the new legal base, Article 15(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
However, this is not the first proposal to amend Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001. On 30 April 2008, well before the entry into force of the new treaty, a proposal was submitted to the European Parliament and the Council which aims at improving and streamlining the existing Regulation. The legislative process on this earlier proposal is taking more time than expected.
That is why the Commission feels it necessary to move forward with a limited proposal to amend Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, and make it compliant with the Treaty. This view is shared by the European Ombudsman, who considers it in the interest of legal certainty for citizens.
This limited change to the Regulation will, once adopted, lead to a single legal framework for the right of access to documents of all the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the European Union, including the newly created European External Action service. This proposal is without prejudice to the ongoing legislative process on the April 2008 proposal for a recast of the Regulation.