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European Commission - Press release

European citizens making more requests for Commission documents than ever before

Brussels, 12 August 2011 – Europe's citizens are showing an ever greater interest in Commission activities, over a growing number of policy areas. That's the conclusion of the latest annual report on public access to documents, which shows an 18% increase in the number of requests for documents in 2010.

In total, the Commission received 6,361 requests for access to documents in 2010. This compares to 5,401 in 2009 – and just 450 ten years ago. These requests concerned everything from a single document to entire files concerning various administrative procedures. The many requests for documents that were already publicly available are not included in these figures.

Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said: "These figures reflect a growing interest in Commission activities and I welcome that. Disclosure of documents is often in the public interest and is a key way of increasing transparency. This can only be a good thing. Greater transparency ensures that the Commission is open to public scrutiny and accountable for its work."

Competition policy topped the list of areas of interest, accounting for nearly 1 in 10 requests, followed by home and justice affairs, transport and energy, the internal market and the environment. The biggest proportion of requests came from people or organisations based in Belgium (17.95%), with Germany close behind (16.62%).

In certain limited circumstances defined by the legislation (Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001), the Commission can refuse to supply a document. Nevertheless, full access was granted in more than four out of five cases. The principal reasons for refusing an initial request in 2010 were: protection of the purpose of inspections, investigations and audits, protection of the Commission's decision-making process, and protection of commercial interests.

This reflects the fact that many requests concern a specific, private interest rather than a general, public interest. Complainants in infringement proceedings, competitors or alleged victims of anti-competitive behaviour are among those who request documents of interest to themselves, but which cannot be made publicly available without harming a legitimate countervailing interest.

The report points out that analysing such requests creates a substantial administrative burden that consumes significant public resources. But recent case law from the Court of Justice, also outlined in the report, should help establish a balance between different rights, and increase efficiency in dealing with requests.

The 2010 Annual Report on Access to Commission Documents is available on the access to documents website:

Contacts :

Antonio Gravili (+32 2 295 43 17)

Marilyn Carruthers (+32 2 299 94 51)

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