UK Agrees to Provide Document on EU Discussions

23 May 2014

Reversing course, the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has agreed to provide Access Info Europe with information on negotiations in Brussels to revise the European Union’s transparency rules.

The changed position will end a four-year legal process arising from an information request made June 15, 2010, by Access Info Europe Campaigner Pam Bartlett Quintanilla.

She sought information including minutes and notes taken by UK delegates at meetings in Brussels. The FCO invoked the international relations exception and protection of the formulation of government policy.

The UK Information Commissioner ruled on Oct. 17, 2011, that most of documents should be released, with the names of other countries blacked out, thus concealing the negotiating positions of the other EU Member States.

Access Info appealed to the Information Tribunal, and the case was then suspended for almost two years pending a ruling by the European Court of Justice in the case of Access Info v Council of the European Union, which was also about access to Member State positions on the EU’s transparency rules. Access Info Europe won that case on Oct. 17, 2013.[2]

“It would appear that the positive ruling from the European Court of Justice, which determined that citizens did have a right to know what each Member State was proposing during legislative negotiations, has led to a change in tack, at least in the UK. Access Info is encouraged by the FCO’s volte-face and hopes that the ECJ’s pro-transparency jurisprudence will lead to transparency improvements in other Member States” stated Quintanilla.

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