EU Court Rejects Appeal for Documents on NGO Projects

4 January 2013

The European Court of Justice has rejected efforts by an Israeli organization to obtain documents from the European Union on the funding of projects by human rights organizations in Israel.

The court ruled on Nov. 27 against NGO Monitor and its president, Gerald Steinberg, a political scientist at Bar Ilan University.

Concerned about EU influence in Israeli affairs, Steinberg sought over 200 documents about 116 projects that the EU funded in the years 2006 to 2008 to promote peace in the Middle East and human rights. He asked for the organizations’ proposals, the EU’s assessment forms and the groups’ completion reports, among other things.

After being provided heavily redacted materials, Steinberg in 2010 petitioned the European Court of Justice to overturn the EU decision. The European Commission cited “public security,” “privacy” and “commercial interests” in largely denying NGO Monitor’s request.

The court concluded that the appeal was “manifestly lacking any foundation in law.”

NGO Monitor said in a statement that the decision “confirmed that the EU fails to act transparently in its funding of non-government organizations.” Steinberg said, “For over a decade, the EU has acted with impunity in funding political advocacy NGOs with near total secrecy.” He continued: “Throughout, EU officials have attempted to justify the intense secrecy by using exaggerated claims of ‘public security’ and ‘commercial interest.’ The only reasonable conclusion is that the EU has something to hide.”

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