Brussels, 3 August 2012
Requests for Commission documents increase for tenth year in a row
The latest annual report on public access to documents, released today, shows 6,447 requests were made for Commission documents in 2011. This compares to 6,361 in 2010 – and just 450 when the current rules entered into force in 2001.
The relatively small increase compared to previous years suggests that requests are starting to stabilise, perhaps as the right to access documents becomes firmly established in the public mind. Another factor may be the ever increasing size of the Commission's permanent public register of documents, making ad hoc requests less necessary. Another 19,956 documents were added to the public register in 2011, a 7% increase on the 18,661 documents added to the register in 2010.
Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said: "The Commission handles by far the greatest number of access to document requests among EU institutions, and like last year, we granted access in more than four out of five cases. We want to be as open and transparent as possible, and reinforced this approach with the launch of the Transparency Portal last June."
In 2011, taxation and customs union overtook competition as the most popular policy area for document requests. The largest proportion of requests - 21.42% - originated in Belgium. Italy was the source of 12.37%, closely followed by Germany at 12.27%.
In certain limited circumstances defined by the legislation (Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001), the Commission can refuse to supply a document. As in previous years, the most common reason for doing this was protection of the purpose of inspections, investigations and audits.
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 often cannot be made publicly available without harming a legitimate countervailing interest.
2011 Annual Report on Access to Documents:
Transparency Portal, with information on access to documents: