Support for ruling against member states’ secrecy rules

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Series Details Vol 7, No.11, 15.3.01, p6
Publication Date 15/03/2001
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Date: 15/03/01

CIVIL liberties campaigners are hailing this week's judgement by the EU citizens' watchdog that member states have been acting against Union secrecy rules.

Tony Bunyan, head of UK-based Statewatch, says the decision by the Ombudsman to condemn the Council of Ministers for refusing to keep a register of its documents should have wide-ranging implications for the EU's openness debate.

"The European Ombudsman has done a great service for democratic standards in the EU by declaring that there cannot be whole categories of secret documents which are permanently excluded from public access," he said.

The comments come after Ombudsman Jacob Söderman upheld two complaints Bunyan had made against the Council for its secrecy when it comes to handing out internal papers.

Bunyan charged that he had been denied access to non-confidential papers, including a report from a joint EU-US task force. Söderman this week said that was a case of maladministration.

Bunyan also argued that the public is automatically excluded from seeing whole swathes of documents because member states do not even formally admit they exist. The watchdog proclaimed that excluding so-called 'non-papers' and 'unnumbered papers' was also a case of bad management.

Söderman has now given member states until the end of May to re-consider the Council's position or he will refer the matter to the European Parliament.

Reaction to the European Ombudsman's judgment that Member States have been acting against Union secrecy rules.

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