This is an HTML version of an attachment to the Freedom of Information request 'Safeguard Mechanism: United Kingdom and free movement'.


 
EUROPEAN COMMISSION 
 
 
Brussels, 13.12.2016 
C(2016)8763 final 
 
 
 
Mr Niccolo Milanese 
European Alternatives 
Suite 501 
The Nexus Building, Broadway 
Letchworth Garden City, SG69BL 
United Kingdom 
DECISION OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL ON BEHALF OF THE COMMISSION PURSUANT 
TO ARTICLE 4 OF THE IMPLEMENTING RULES TO REGULATION (EC) N° 1049/20011 
Subject: 
Your confirmatory application for access to documents under 
Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 - GESTDEM 2016/2404 

Dear Mr Milanese, 
I refer to your e-mail of 15 June 2016, registered on 29 June 2016, in which you submit a 
confirmatory application in accordance with Article 7(2) of Regulation (EC) No 
1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission 
documents2 ('Regulation 1049/2001').  
1. 
SCOPE OF YOUR REQUEST 
In your initial application of 2 May 2016, you requested access to: 
−  the [d]ocuments containing information supplied by the United Kingdom as 
evidence of an exceptional situation, as referred to in paragraph 2 of the 
Commission Declaration on the safeguard mechanism regarding the freedom of 
movement for workers, provided in the framework of the proposed 'New 
Settlement for the UK within the EU' of 19 February 20163; 
                                                 

Official Journal L 345 of 29.12.2001, p. 94. 
2    Official Journal L 145 of 31.5.2001, p. 43. 
3   The European Commission considers that the kind of information provided to it by the United 
Kingdom, in particular as it has not made full use of the transitional periods on free movement of 
 
Commission européenne/Europese Commissie, 1049 Bruxelles/Brussel, BELGIQUE/BELGIË - Tel. +32 22991111 
http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/ 
E-mail: [DG SG request email]  
 

−  all preparatory documents leading the Commission to reach the conclusion that 
'the type of exceptional situation that the safeguard mechanism is intended to 
cover exists in the United Kingdom today'
. This shall include the Commission's 
own analysis based on labour market statistics and studies by third parties

−  [a]ny notes and evidence to back up the declaration supplied to the 
representatives of Member States in the European Council, their reactions and 
extracts from any minutes of meetings where the safeguard mechanism was 
discussed

In its initial reply of 27 May 2016, the Task Force for Strategic Issues related to the UK 
Referendum (UKTF) refused access to the documents falling under the scope of your 
request, based on the exception of Article 4(3), first subparagraph (protection of the 
decision-making process) of Regulation 1049/2001.  
 
Through your confirmatory application you request a review of this position. You strive 
to demonstrate the existence of an overriding public interest in disclosure of the 
requested documents. I will address your arguments in the sections below. 
 
2. 
ASSESSMENT AND CONCLUSIONS UNDER REGULATION 1049/2001 
When assessing a confirmatory application for access to documents submitted pursuant 
to Regulation 1049/2001, the Secretariat-General conducts a fresh review of the reply 
given by the Directorate-General or service concerned at the initial stage. 
Following this review, I regret to inform you that the refusal of the UKTF to grant access 
has to be confirmed, based on the exceptions of Article 4(3), first subparagraph 
(protection of the decision-making process), Article 4(1)(a), fourth indent (protection of 
the financial, monetary or economic policy of the Union or a Member State) and Article 
4(1)(b) (protection of the privacy and the integrity of the individual), of Regulation 
1049/2001, as explained below. 
2.1.  Protection of the decision-making process 
Article 4(3), first subparagraph of Regulation 1049/2001 provides that [a]ccess to a 
document, drawn up by an institution for internal use or received by an institution, which 
relates to a matter where the decision has not been taken by the institution, shall be 
refused if disclosure of the document would seriously undermine the institution's 
decision-making process, unless there is an overriding public interest in disclosure. 

                                                                                                                                                 
workers which were provided for in recent Accession Acts, shows the type of exceptional situation that 
the proposed safeguard mechanism is intended to cover exists in the United Kingdom today
, European 
Council conclusions of 18-19 February 2016, Annex VI, Declaration of the European Commission, 
paragraph 2. 


The documents which you seek to obtain contain non-public considerations and 
exchanges. They reflect preliminary opinions from Member States and different options 
discussed in relation to sensitive matters concerning a possible new settlement for the 
United Kingdom within the EU. The documents include negotiation positions and 
supporting arguments, including non-public data. 
While the documents requested were drawn up in the context of the establishment of a 
new settlement for the United Kingdom within the EU, and the latter ceased to exist 
following the outcome of the UK referendum of 23 June 2016, a new decision-making 
process has started which would be seriously undermined if these documents were 
disclosed. Indeed, the Commission's (and more broadly, the Union's) decision-making 
process concerning the preparation of the negotiations with the United Kingdom on the 
arrangements for the latter's withdrawal from the Union is ongoing (hereinafter, 'the 
negotiations'). 
After this preparatory period, Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union sets out the 
procedure to be followed if a Member State decides to leave the Union. Therefore, 
another decision-making process concerning the actual negotiations with the United 
Kingdom will start once the Article 50 process is triggered by a notification from the 
withdrawing state. 
The issues discussed in the documents requested are relevant in the context of the current 
decision-making process regarding the preparation of the negotiations, and beyond. 
Disclosure of any documents, in part or in full, which contain preliminary reflections and 
negotiation positions as described above, would significantly restrict the Commission's 
and the Member States' ability to act unrestrainedly in its future discussions in the 
context of Article 50 TEU. This, in turn, would seriously undermine the Commission's 
and the Member States' margin of manoeuver in the future negotiations and, hence, its 
decision-making process concerning the preparation of the negotiation and the actual 
negotiation of the arrangements for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the 
Union. It would also potentially result in the content of these documents being 
misunderstood or misused, thereby impairing the serenity of the ongoing decision-
making process.  
The sensitive and unprecedented process of preparing and conducting negotiations with 
the United Kingdom on the arrangements for the latter's withdrawal from the Union does 
indeed merit thorough reflection. To that end, the Commission and the Member States 
should remain free to undertake preliminary reflections without any external interference.  
I refer in this regard to the recent judgement of the General Court in Joint Cases T-
424/14 and T-425/14, where the Court has acknowledged the existence of a general 
presumption that access to such preliminary documents is to be refused: 


 […] for the purposes of applying the exception laid down in the first subparagraph of 
Article 4(3) of Regulation No 1049/2001, the Commission is entitled to presume, without 
carrying out a specific and individual examination of each of the documents drawn up in 
the context of preparing an impact assessment, that the disclosure of those documents 
would, in principle, seriously undermine its decision-making process for developing a 
policy proposal. 

[…] it must be held that the general presumption may apply for as long as the 
Commission has not made a decision regarding a potential policy proposal, that is to 
say, until a policy initiative has been, depending on the circumstances, either adopted or 
abandoned.4
 
Whilst this judgment specifically concerned documents drafted in the framework of the 
completion of an impact assessment, the reasoning of the Court applies, mutatis 
mutandis
, to other documents drafted as part of preliminary reflections and discussions 
on possible policy options, especially where they are relevant in the context of 
discussions on the sensitive issue of the negotiations pursuant to Article 50 TEU.  
Furthermore, some of the documents requested originate from the UK authorities. Public 
disclosure of the information provided by the UK authorities, in confidence, on issues 
which will be relevant in the future negotiations, would seriously undermine the 
Commission's (and more broadly, the Union's) decision-making process concerning the 
preparation and conduct of the future negotiations. Indeed, in order to conduct the future 
negotiations with the United Kingdom effectively, a climate of mutual trust between the 
sides must be ensured throughout this sensitive and unprecedented process and earlier 
negotiation positions relevant for future discussions must remain confidential.  
The British Prime Minister May publicly announced that the UK Government would 
formally notify the European Council of the UK's intention to withdraw from the Union 
by the end of March 2017. The risk that public disclosure of the information contained in 
the documents would negatively influence the preparation and future negotiations with 
the authorities of the United Kingdom is reasonably foreseeable and not purely 
hypothetical. 
Consequently, I conclude that access to the requested documents has to be refused, based 
on Article 4(3) (protection of the decision-making process) of Regulation 1049/2001. 
2.2.  Protection of the financial, monetary or economic policy of the European 
Union or a Member State 
Article 4(1)(a), fourth indent of Regulation 1049/2001 provides that [t]he institutions 
shall refuse access to a document where disclosure would undermine the protection of 
the public interest as regards 
[...] the financial, monetary or economic policy of the 
Union or a Member State.
 
                                                 
4   Judgement of the General Court of 13 November 2015 in Joined Cases T-424/14 and T-42514, 
ClientEarth v Commission, paragraphs 97 and 99. 


As explained above, the documents requested include earlier negotiation positions and 
supporting arguments, including non-public data, on delicate matters which are relevant 
throughout the process of preparing, and conducting, the future negotiations with the 
United Kingdom. Disclosure of any documents reflecting this information would give 
rise to undue speculation and premature conclusions as regards sensitive issues which 
touch upon the heart of the European integration, including the functioning of the internal 
market. This, in turn, would not only pose a threat to the financial, monetary and 
economic stability of the European Union, but also to that of individual Member States.  
2.3.  Protection of privacy and the integrity of the individual 
Article 4(1)(b) of Regulation 1049/2001 provides that [t]he institutions shall refuse 
access to a document where disclosure would undermine the protection of 
[…] privacy 
and the integrity of the individual, in particular in accordance with Community 
legislation regarding the protection of personal data

The documents requested contain the names of individuals5. These data constitute 
personal data within the meaning of Article 2(a) of Regulation 45/20016, which defines 
personal data as any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person 
[…]; an identifiable person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in 
particular by reference to an identification number or to one or more factors specific to 
his or her physical, physiological, mental, economic, cultural or social identity

In consequence, the public disclosure of these data in the requested documents would 
constitute processing (transfer) of personal data within the meaning of Article 8(b) of 
Regulation 45/2001.  
In accordance with the Bavarian Lager ruling7, when a request is made for access to 
documents containing personal data, Regulation 45/2001 becomes fully applicable. 
According to Article 8(b) of that Regulation, personal data shall only be transferred to 
recipients if the recipient establishes the necessity of having the data transferred and if 
there is no reason to assume that the data subject's legitimate interests might be 
prejudiced. Those two conditions are cumulative.8 Only if both conditions are fulfilled 
and the processing is lawful in accordance with the requirements of Article 5 of  
Regulation 45/2001, can the processing (transfer) of personal data occur.  
I would also like to bring to your attention the recent judgment in the ClientEarth case, 
where the Court of Justice ruled that whoever requests such a transfer must first establish 
that it is necessary. If it is demonstrated to be necessary, it is then for the institution 
concerned to determine that there is no reason to assume that that transfer might 
prejudice the legitimate interests of the data subject. If there is no such reason, the 

                                                 
5   Including Commission officials not forming part of senior management. 
6   Regulation (EC) No 45/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2000 on 
the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by the Community 
institutions and bodies and on the free movement of such data. 

Judgment in Commission v Bavarian Lager, case C-28/08 P, EU:C:2010:378. 
8   Ibid., paragraphs 77 to 78. 


transfer requested must be made, whereas, if there is such a reason, the institution 
concerned must weigh the various competing interests in order to decide on the request 
for access
.9 I refer also to the Strack case, where the Court of Justice ruled that the 
Institution does not have to examine by itself the existence of a need for transferring 
personal data10.  
Neither in your initial, nor in your confirmatory application, have you established the 
necessity of, nor any interest in, disclosing any of the above-mentioned personal data. 
Therefore, I have to conclude that the transfer of personal data through the disclosure of 
the requested documents cannot be considered as fulfilling the requirement of Regulation 
45/2001. Consequently, the use of the exception under Article 4(1)(b) of Regulation 
1049/2001 is justified, as, based on the information at my disposal, there is no need to 
publicly disclose the personal data included therein and it cannot be assumed that the 
legitimate rights of the data subjects concerned would not be prejudiced by such 
disclosure. 
3. 
NO OVERRIDING PUBLIC INTEREST IN DISCLOSURE 
The exceptions laid down in Article 4(3) (protection of the decision-making process) of 
Regulation 1049/2001 must be waived if there is an overriding public interest in 
disclosure. Such an interest must, firstly, be public and, secondly, outweigh the harm 
caused by disclosure. 
In your confirmatory application, you argue that [t]he assertion that there is an 
exceptional pressure on UK public services caused by EU migration will have 
implications after the referendum in the case both of a remain or a leave vote in the 
context of discussions on the relationship between the UK and the rest of the EU, and the 
fate of EU workers currently in the UK. Therefore the overwhelming public interest in 
seeing and evaluating this evidence will remain after the 23rd June

While I agree that there may be a public interest in granting access to the supporting 
arguments and evidence you refer to, I consider that, in this case, the public interest is 
best served by avoiding taking any measure such as disclosing these documents which 
would negatively affect or undermine the above mentioned decision-making processes 
concerning the preparation of the future negotiations with the United Kingdom on the 
arrangements for the latter's withdrawal from the Union, and the actual negotiations. It is 
in the public's interest that the negotiations pursuant to Article 50 TEU are conducted 
effectively. 
In consequence, I consider that, in this case, there is no overriding public interest that 
would outweigh the interest in safeguarding the protection of the ongoing decision-
making process based on Article 4(3) of Regulation 1049/2001. 
                                                 
9   Judgment in ClientEarth and PAN Europe v EFSA, case C-615/13 P, EU:C:2015:489paragraph 47. 
10   Judgment in Strack v Commission, case C-127/13 P, EU:C:2014:2250, paragraph 106. 



Please note also that Articles 4(1)(a) and 4(1)(b) of Regulation 1049/2001 do not include 
the possibility for the exceptions defined therein to be set aside by an overriding public 
interest. 
4. 
PARTIAL ACCESS 
In accordance with Article 4(6) of Regulation 1049/2001, I have considered the 
possibility of granting partial access to the documents requested. However, no 
meaningful partial access is possible without undermining the interests described above.  
Consequently, I have come to the conclusion that the documents requested are covered in 
their entirety by the invoked exceptions to the right of access. 
5. 
MEANS OF REDRESS 
Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the means of redress that are available 
against this decision, that is, judicial proceedings and complaints to the Ombudsman 
under the conditions specified respectively in Articles 263 and 228 of the Treaty on the 
Functioning of the European Union. 
 
Yours sincerely, 
 
 
For the Commission 
Alexander ITALIANER 
Secretary-General 

 
 


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