|Author (Person)||Coss, Simon|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.8, No.42, 21.11.02, p2|
AN AGREEMENT that would allow a restricted group of MEPs to see some of the Union's most confidential defence and security documents has been discredited by a number of EU parliamentarians.
The deal was rubber-stamped by governments earlier this month and was due to be signed by Parliament President Pat Cox and Danish Europe Minister Bertel Haarder yesterday (20 November).
But members of the Parliament's Green/European Free Alliance group say the agreement makes too many concessions to governments and is overly restrictive.
'We keep going two steps forward and then one step back with regard to transparency and openness of information in the EU,' Scottish National Party MEP Neil MacCormick, who voted against the agreement at a recent meeting of the constitutional affairs committee, told European Voice.
MacCormick accepted that certain documents needed to be secret but claimed Union governments were being too cautious. 'Some openness is better than none, but I think the compromise agreed is restrictive beyond the needs of security and unhelpful to democracy in Europe,' he complained.
But the man who drafted the deal, centre-right German MEP Elmar Brok, insisted he had negotiated a good agreement. 'This is a first important step,' he said. 'From now on we will receive classified documents according to the same kinds of rules that apply to national parliaments.'
Under the new accord, a special committee consisting of the Parliament's president, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee and four MEPs chosen by the leaders of the Parliament's political groups could ask the Council of Ministers for access to classified documents.
Texts designated 'confidential' or 'secret' could be delivered to the Parliament but the committee would have to examine 'top-secret' documents at the Council of Ministers.
Brok argued that security concerns justified restricting access to members of the new committee.
'If you allowed all 750 MEPs to see these things then they wouldn't be secret anymore,' he said.
The agreement contains numerous 'get-out' clauses, which allow the Council to refuse to release any documents it does not want MEPs to see. 'Access to documents would be based on the need-to-know principle,' one national diplomat who helped negotiate the deal told this paper. 'In other words, each time the Parliament wants to see a particular text it will have to prove why,' he added.
The agreement will be reviewed in two years time, to see if both sides are satisfied with it. At that point, if MEPs feel the Council is not playing ball, the Parliament could re-open a 2000 access-to-documents lawsuit against EU governments. It provisionally dropped the case earlier this year in anticipation of the new agreement.
An agreement that would allow a restricted group of MEPs to see some of the European Union's most confidential defence and security documents has been criticised by members of the European Parliament's Green/European Free Alliance group.
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations, Security and Defence|