Access Info Europe Finds Delays in Council Responses

19 May 2014

The Council of the European Union responds to information requests in an average of 20 working days, above the 15 days under law, according to a study issued May 19 by Access Info Europe

The Council also is applying too many extensions to requests and not informing all requesters of their right to appeal when information is denied, the group said.

The report is based on an analysis of 50 access to documents requests submitted to the Council between 2011 and 2013 via the platform.

Requests which resulted in partial denials of information were answered in an average of 49 working days, the study found. Excessive use was made of extensions which were applied in a full 32% of cases.

“Analysis of the requests found that the majority sought information about the decision-making process, something which the EU treaties mandate should be as open as possible. In spite of this, less than one third of requests (19 requests or 28%) were successful, resulting in the full disclosure of documents to the person seeking it,” according to Access Info Europe, which also listed other deficiencies.

The report contains a series of recommendations, including:

Proactively publish relevant information about its decision-making process, policies and administrative information;

– Inform requesters of their rights, including in particular the right to appeal when information is denied; 

Respect the 15 working day deadline for responding to requests, reducing it from the current average of 20 working days;

 Limit the use of extensions to exceptional cases and respect the maximum additional 15 working day deadline; 

Avoid artificial distinctions between access to documents requests which are processed under Regulation 1049/2001 and which therefore include the possibility to appeal, and access to information requests which are currently dealt with under the guidelines on good administration and which have no legal remedy in case the requester is not satisfied;

 Ensure that exceptions are applied narrowly and with due regard for the public interest in transparency, participation and accountability;

 Improve record keeping, ensuring, inter alia, that full records are kept of meetings which are part of legislative processes and where legal advice is delivered.

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