Maarten Hillebrandt

Dear Secretariat General of the European Commission,

Under the right of access to documents in the EU treaties, as developed in Regulation 1049/2001, I am writing you to make the following request for access to documents .

In the Annex to the report from the Commission on the application in 2018 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents (COM(2019) 356 final), the Commission states under point 4 that in 2017, it submitted 259 replies to confirmatory applications based on Regulation(EC) No1049/2001.

For the purpose of academic research, I would like to request full access to all of these 259 replies.

Yours faithfully,

Maarten Hillebrandt

Secretariat General of the European Commission

Your message has been received by the Transparency Unit of the
Secretariat-General of the European Commission.
Requests for public access to documents are treated on the basis of
[1]Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to
European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.
The Secretariat-General will reply to your request within 15 working days
upon registration of your request and will duly inform you of the
registration of the request (or of any additional information to be
provided in view of its registration and/or treatment).
 
 
L’unité «Transparence» du secrétariat général de la Commission européenne
a bien reçu votre message.
Les demandes d’accès du public aux documents sont traitées sur la base du
[2]règlement (CE) n° 1049/2001 du 30 mai 2001 relatif à l’accès du public
aux documents du Parlement européen, du Conseil et de la Commission.
Le secrétariat général répondra à votre demande dans un délai de 15 jours
ouvrables à compter de la date d’enregistrement de votre demande, et vous
informera de cet enregistrement (ou vous indiquera toute information
supplémentaire à fournir en vue de l'enregistrement et/ou du traitement de
votre demande).
 
 
Ihre Nachricht ist beim Referat „Transparenz“ des Generalsekretariats der
Europäischen Kommission eingegangen.
Anträge auf Zugang zu Dokumenten werden auf der Grundlage der
[3]Verordnung (EG) Nr. 1049/2001 vom 30. Mai 2001 über den Zugang der
Öffentlichkeit zu Dokumenten des Europäischen Parlaments, des Rates und
der Kommission behandelt.
Das Generalsekretariat beantwortet Ihre Anfrage innerhalb von
15 Arbeitstagen nach deren Registrierung und wird Sie über die
Registrierung Ihres Antrags (oder die Notwendigkeit weiterer Informationen
im Hinblick auf dessen Registrierung und/oder Bearbeitung) unterrichten.
 
 

References

Visible links
1. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/...
2. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/...
3. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/...

Secretariat General of the European Commission

1 Attachment

Dear Maarten Hillebrandt,
Thank you for your request for access to documents. Unfortunately, you
have not indicated your postal address that is required for registering
and handling your request in line with the procedural requirements. Please
send us your full postal address at your earliest convenience.
Pending your reply, we reserve the right to refuse the registration of
your request.
You may, of course, use directly the electronic form for entering your
request:
[1]http://ec.europa.eu/transparency/regdoc/...
Best regards,
 
ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS TEAM
 
European Commission
Secretariat-General
Unit C1 – Transparency, Document Management & Access to Documents
 
[2]HOW WE PROCESS PERSONAL DATA
 
 
 

show quoted sections

Maarten Hillebrandt

Dear Secretariat General of the European Commission,

Thank you for your reply. The postal address to be used for this request as well as for the other requests made today to the Commission Secretariat General is:

Dr. Maarten Hillebrandt
University of Helsinki
Faculty of Law
Eric Castrén Institute
Yliopistonkatu 3
00101 Helsinki
Finland

Yours faithfully,

Maarten Hillebrandt

Secretariat General of the European Commission

Your message has been received by the Transparency Unit of the
Secretariat-General of the European Commission.
Requests for public access to documents are treated on the basis of
[1]Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to
European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.
The Secretariat-General will reply to your request within 15 working days
upon registration of your request and will duly inform you of the
registration of the request (or of any additional information to be
provided in view of its registration and/or treatment).
 
 
L’unité «Transparence» du secrétariat général de la Commission européenne
a bien reçu votre message.
Les demandes d’accès du public aux documents sont traitées sur la base du
[2]règlement (CE) n° 1049/2001 du 30 mai 2001 relatif à l’accès du public
aux documents du Parlement européen, du Conseil et de la Commission.
Le secrétariat général répondra à votre demande dans un délai de 15 jours
ouvrables à compter de la date d’enregistrement de votre demande, et vous
informera de cet enregistrement (ou vous indiquera toute information
supplémentaire à fournir en vue de l'enregistrement et/ou du traitement de
votre demande).
 
 
Ihre Nachricht ist beim Referat „Transparenz“ des Generalsekretariats der
Europäischen Kommission eingegangen.
Anträge auf Zugang zu Dokumenten werden auf der Grundlage der
[3]Verordnung (EG) Nr. 1049/2001 vom 30. Mai 2001 über den Zugang der
Öffentlichkeit zu Dokumenten des Europäischen Parlaments, des Rates und
der Kommission behandelt.
Das Generalsekretariat beantwortet Ihre Anfrage innerhalb von
15 Arbeitstagen nach deren Registrierung und wird Sie über die
Registrierung Ihres Antrags (oder die Notwendigkeit weiterer Informationen
im Hinblick auf dessen Registrierung und/oder Bearbeitung) unterrichten.
 
 

References

Visible links
1. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/...
2. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/...
3. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/...

Secretariat General of the European Commission

1 Attachment

Dear Maarten Hillebrandt,
Thank you for your e-mails dated 09/12/2019.  We hereby acknowledge
receipt of your five requests for access to documents, which were
registered on 09/12/2019 under reference numbers GESTDEM 2019/7132,
2019/7134, 2019/7136, 2019/7137 and 2019/7138.
In accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to
European Parliament, Council and Commission documents, your application
will be handled within 15 working days. The time limit will expire on
09/01/2020. In case this time limit needs to be extended, you will be
informed in due course.
 
Your applications concern a very large number of document, which need to
be assessed individually. Such a detailed analysis cannot be carried out
within the normal time limits set out in Article 7 of Regulation (EC) No
1049/2001.
 
However, the Regulation also provides for a possibility to confer with
applicants in order to find a fair solution when an application relates to
a very large number of documents, therefore it would be helpful if you
could limit the scope of your requests already at this stage. Article 6(3)
provides that in the event of an application relating to a very large
number of documents, the institution concerned may confer with the
applicant informally, with a view to finding a fair solution.
 
This means that the scope of the request must be reduced in a way that
would enable its treatment within the extended deadline of 15 + 15 working
days. As you will see, there are approximately 300 hundred confirmatory
decisions per year, which would result in a disproportionate
administrative burden when dealing with your requests.
 
We would appreciate it very much if you could already at this stage limit
your requests to a limited number per year, possibly to include only the
policy area that is of interest to you.
 
Best regards,
 
ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS TEAM
 
European Commission
Secretariat-General
Unit C1 – Transparency, Document Management & Access to Documents
 
[1]HOW WE PROCESS PERSONAL DATA
 
 

show quoted sections

Maarten Hillebrandt

Dear Secretariat General of the European Commission,

Many thanks for your message in response to my 5 requests for access to documents held by the Commission.

In your message, you are proposing to come to a reasonable understanding in order to address the administrative burden that arises from the amount of documents that I requested. However, I do not fully understand your proposal and would like to clarify this.

My question particularly pertains to the following. Either you are asking me whether I would be willing to break down my request into several smaller requests. This strikes me as an adjustment that achieves little in terms of administrative expediency. Alternatively, you are asking me to request fewer documents. Unfortunately, this would defeat the purpose of my request altogether, which relies on a large and complete dataset of Commission confirmatory applications. I note, in this context, that similar documents produced by the Council are systematically placed on its document register, allowing members of the public to download them without any further administrative burden on the part of that institution. It do not see any relevant conditions that would prevent the Commission from doing the same. Given these circumstances, I cannot but conclude that the administrative burden caused by my request is the result of a policy choice made by the Commission itself.

I await your clarification concerning which of the above reasonable solutions it is that you are proposing.

Yours faithfully,

Maarten Hillebrandt

Secretariat General of the European Commission

Your message has been received by the Transparency Unit of the
Secretariat-General of the European Commission.
Requests for public access to documents are treated on the basis of
[1]Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to
European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.
The Secretariat-General will reply to your request within 15 working days
upon registration of your request and will duly inform you of the
registration of the request (or of any additional information to be
provided in view of its registration and/or treatment).
 
 
L’unité «Transparence» du secrétariat général de la Commission européenne
a bien reçu votre message.
Les demandes d’accès du public aux documents sont traitées sur la base du
[2]règlement (CE) n° 1049/2001 du 30 mai 2001 relatif à l’accès du public
aux documents du Parlement européen, du Conseil et de la Commission.
Le secrétariat général répondra à votre demande dans un délai de 15 jours
ouvrables à compter de la date d’enregistrement de votre demande, et vous
informera de cet enregistrement (ou vous indiquera toute information
supplémentaire à fournir en vue de l'enregistrement et/ou du traitement de
votre demande).
 
 
Ihre Nachricht ist beim Referat „Transparenz“ des Generalsekretariats der
Europäischen Kommission eingegangen.
Anträge auf Zugang zu Dokumenten werden auf der Grundlage der
[3]Verordnung (EG) Nr. 1049/2001 vom 30. Mai 2001 über den Zugang der
Öffentlichkeit zu Dokumenten des Europäischen Parlaments, des Rates und
der Kommission behandelt.
Das Generalsekretariat beantwortet Ihre Anfrage innerhalb von
15 Arbeitstagen nach deren Registrierung und wird Sie über die
Registrierung Ihres Antrags (oder die Notwendigkeit weiterer Informationen
im Hinblick auf dessen Registrierung und/oder Bearbeitung) unterrichten.
 
 

References

Visible links
1. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/...
2. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/...
3. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/...

Secretariat General of the European Commission

2 Attachments

Dear Sir,

 

Please find attached an advance copy of a letter concerning your initial
requests for access to documents registered under the number GESTDEM
2019/7132 - 2019/7134 - 2019/7136 - 2019/7137 & 2019/7138.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Access to documents team (cr)
SG.C.1
Transparency
Berl. 07/251

[1]cid:image004.gif@01D4F9CD.7B22B0F0

 

 

References

Visible links

Maarten Hillebrandt

Dear Secretariat General of the European Commission,

Thank you for your reply to my previous email in which I requested a clarification of your suggestion to reach a reasonable solution for my series of requests for access to documents. These requests pertained to all confirmatory application decisions during the years 2014-2018. In your letter, you reiterate your position that my requests, which were made in 5 separate parts, would impose an unreasonable administrative burden on the Commission. On the basis of a list of tasks associated with my request, the Commission reaches the conclusion that my requests would take over ten years to complete. Consequently, the Commission proposes to handle 2 confirmatory application decisions per year to which requests pertained, which it presents as a reasonable alternative.

Before I will respond to this proposed solution, I would like to object to a number of procedural aspects of the Commission's dealing with my access to documents requests.

First, I would like to emphasise that my call for access to confirmatory application decisions consisted of 5 separate requests. I did so on purpose, with the aim of fulfilling the requirement of making requests for access to documents with a reasonable volume. The Commission appears to treat my 5 separate requests as a de facto single access request. This becomes, among other things, clear from its calculation of the administrative burden of my requests, which adds up all requested documents across the 5 requests. Regulation 1049/2001 contains no reference to the possibility of unilaterally merging various access to documents requests. Particularly where the question at hand is whether a request does or does not constitute an unreasonable administrative burden, merging the documents requested across separate access to documents requests constitutes an unfair representation of the facts, which places me as an applicant at a disadvantage. I therefore cannot accept the treatment of my 5 separate access to documents requests as a de facto single request. I also protest against the implicit suggestion, entailed in the Commission’s statement that I made “a very wide-scoped request (all confirmatory decisions for the years 2014-2018) by introducing parts of it as seemingly separate requests”, that my access to documents requests are malicious. As I pointed out above, it is exactly for reasons of compliance with a reasonable interpretation of the right of access to documents under Regulation 1049/2001 that I decided to break the request into separate, manageable parts. Under these circumstances, I would expect the Commission to present a separate assessment of administrative burden for each of the requests that I brought.

Second, the Commission sets a deadline of response of 5 days to its offer of a reasonable alternative, one day before Christmas. This deadline is not derived from any known regulation and thus appears arbitrary. At the very least, the Commission does not refer to the rule that would oblige me to respond within 5 days, nor does it explain from where it derives the right to unilaterally rephrase my requests for access should I fail to respond within the set timeframe. I answer to this letter within the set 5 days for fear of being presented with a fait accompli of having my access requests unfairly reduced by the Commission. However, in the absence of a valid procedure for it to do so, this does not mean that I recognise either the deadline of 5 days or any unilateral decision of the Commission to rephrase my access to documents requests as such.

Having made these observations specific to the procedure proposed by the Commission, I make the following observations concerning the substance of the Commission’s assessment of my 5 separate access to documents requests.

First, the Commission offers a figure of the estimated workload entailed by 5 access to documents requests. It estimates the total workload at 3,800 days. This workload assessment, which amounts to 10.4 years if the Commission were working on my requests all days of the week including the weekend, seems both excessive and arbitrary. This is particularly so, since the Commission offers a very summary substantiation of this figure. According to a brief calculation, the workload assessment is based on the consideration of 3 related documents per day. I therefore must conclude that the figure provided is insufficiently substantiated, and as such not credible as a reference point. I am particularly prone to draw this conclusion, since in similar requests for access to confirmatory application decisions and related documents filed with the Council, I have always been able to reach a friendly solution in which the Council dealt with every single requested documents, and in which (partial) access was offered to by far most of the requested documents, within an incomparably shorter time frame. These requests on some occasions covered hundreds of separate documents. I further repeat here the observation, made in my previous email, that the Council makes most of its documents proactively available on its register. If the Commission were to apply the same policy of proactive disclosure, there would be no need for me to make the present access to documents requests. Regrettably, the Commission does not engage with this point in its reply letter, nor does it offer reasons for its deviation from the Council’s disclosure policy on confirmatory applications, which appears to contravene the principle of the ‘widest possible openness’ that underpins Regulation 1049/2001.

Second, while the Commission proposes a friendly solution in my requests for access to documents, the basis for its offer remains fully unsubstantiated and inadequate to the purpose of request as I formulated it in my previous email. The proposed amount of 10 documents appears totally arbitrary, and disproportionately limited in the light of a consideration of administrative burden. After all, on many past occasions, including the recent example cited by the Commission in its response letter, it has responded to access requests far larger than 10 documents, without raising objections concerning administrative burden.

Third, while I stated that I require a data set on confirmatory application decisions that is as complete as possible for scientific purposes of generalisable extrapolation of the Commission’s implementation of Regulation 1049/2001, the Commission in its reply letter does not engage with the stated purpose. It even appears that the Commission has not read my response, as becomes apparent from the question which “policy area” my request pertains to (I clearly stated to be interested in a complete data set, i.e., not in confirmatory application decisions pertaining to particular policy areas). In this context, the Commission’s suggestion to provide access to 10, rather than 1,269 documents (i.e., 0.09% of the amount of documents requested across my 5 requests) appears grossly inadequate and unresponsive to my stated needs as an academic relying on a general right of access to documents. Given the proposed solution, the academic research that I seek to engage in would be impossible. Systematic analyses of the implementation by the European institutions of the right of access to documents, a central instrument underpinning the democratic principles on which the EU is built, forms an important method of analysing the efficiency of this right, thereby clearly serving the public interest. The fact that the Council makes similar documents available without objections, allowing me to conduct the exact same analysis with regard to the Council, which would be impossible to conduct vis-à-vis the Commission, indicates that the terms of access proposed by the Commission are very problematic from the perspective of the public interest that Regulation 1049/2001 has been adopted to serve.

Fourth, I note that the Commission’s treatment of my requests for access is reductive to the extent that it practically amounts to the imposition of a general presumption against access to confirmatory application decisions. This impression is strengthened by the fact that the Commission, in its reply, requires me to provide the reasons for request for access, while Regulation 1049/2001 expressly guarantees access without a need to provide reasons. Moreover, whereas Regulation 1049/2001 requires the European institution in question to offer the widest possible access, a counteroffer to consider access to 0.09% of the estimated amount of requested documents cannot reasonably be construed to comply with this duty. I note that there is no reason that confirmatory application decisions should systematically be withheld from the public, nor does the Commission justify such a near-total refusal to provide access. The fact that the Council systematically offers access upon request, and even to a large extent proactively discloses, confirmatory application decisions, further militates against the de facto imposition of a general presumption against the requested category of documents.

Having reached the above analysis, I cannot but respectfully decline the Commission’s proposal for an alternative interpretation of my 5 separate access to documents requests for access to the Commission’s confirmatory application decisions covering the years 2014-2018. I do, however, still see space for a workable counteroffer that would sufficiently respect my legally enshrined right of public access to documents.

First, in its letter, the Commission stated that my requests were particularly burdensome because the type of documents I requested came with an average of 9.125 annexes per document, all of which would have to be considered. I am happy to state that I have no interest in obtaining access to these annexes, which already significantly reduces the administrative burden of my request (namely, by setting aside over 90% of the documents to be considered). Second, in the interest of reducing the cumulative administrative burden of my 5 requests, I am willing to withdraw all of requests for access except for the one pertaining to 2018, postponing further access requests to a more opportune point in the future.

In view of the substantial reduction of the number of documents requested, I hope that the Commission is willing to accept this friendly solution. For the sake of completeness, I should add that in case the Commission refuses the proposed solution, I will seriously consider filing fast-track complain with the European Ombudsman for maladministration in relation to my five separate access to documents requests, based on the above-provided reasons.

Yours faithfully,

Maarten Hillebrandt

Secretariat General of the European Commission

Your message has been received by the Transparency Unit of the
Secretariat-General of the European Commission.
Requests for public access to documents are treated on the basis of
[1]Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to
European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.
The Secretariat-General will reply to your request within 15 working days
upon registration of your request and will duly inform you of the
registration of the request (or of any additional information to be
provided in view of its registration and/or treatment).
 
 
L’unité «Transparence» du secrétariat général de la Commission européenne
a bien reçu votre message.
Les demandes d’accès du public aux documents sont traitées sur la base du
[2]règlement (CE) n° 1049/2001 du 30 mai 2001 relatif à l’accès du public
aux documents du Parlement européen, du Conseil et de la Commission.
Le secrétariat général répondra à votre demande dans un délai de 15 jours
ouvrables à compter de la date d’enregistrement de votre demande, et vous
informera de cet enregistrement (ou vous indiquera toute information
supplémentaire à fournir en vue de l'enregistrement et/ou du traitement de
votre demande).
 
 
Ihre Nachricht ist beim Referat „Transparenz“ des Generalsekretariats der
Europäischen Kommission eingegangen.
Anträge auf Zugang zu Dokumenten werden auf der Grundlage der
[3]Verordnung (EG) Nr. 1049/2001 vom 30. Mai 2001 über den Zugang der
Öffentlichkeit zu Dokumenten des Europäischen Parlaments, des Rates und
der Kommission behandelt.
Das Generalsekretariat beantwortet Ihre Anfrage innerhalb von
15 Arbeitstagen nach deren Registrierung und wird Sie über die
Registrierung Ihres Antrags (oder die Notwendigkeit weiterer Informationen
im Hinblick auf dessen Registrierung und/oder Bearbeitung) unterrichten.
 
 

References

Visible links
1. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/...
2. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/...
3. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/...

ve_sg.accessdoc (SG), Secretariat General of the European Commission

1 Attachment

Link: [1]File-List
Link: [2]Edit-Time-Data
Link: [3]themeData
Link: [4]colorSchemeMapping

[5]Ares(2020)115271 - Your application for access to documents under
Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 - GESTDEM 2019/7132, 2019/7134, 2019/7136,
2019/7137 and 2019/7138

Sent by ve_sg.accessdoc (SG) <[DG SG request email]>. All responses have
to be sent to this email address.
Envoyé par ve_sg.accessdoc (SG) <[DG SG request email]>. Toutes les
réponses doivent être effectuées à cette adresse électronique.

Dear Mr Hillebrandt,                 

 

We refer to your emails of  9 December 2019  in which you submit five
requests for access to documents, registered under the reference numbers
GESTDEM 2019/7132, GESTDEM 2019/7134, GESTDEM 2019/7136, GESTDEM 2019/7137
and GESTDEM 2019/7138.

 

We also refer to our letters of proposal for a fair solution dated 23
December 2019 and 7 January 2020 concerning your above-mentioned requests.

 

Your applications are currently being handled. However, we will not be in
a position to complete the handling of your applications within the time
limit of 15 working days, which expires on 09/01/2020.

 

As you are aware, due to the wide scope of your applications, we are
currently in the process of conferring with you, with a view to finding a
fair solution, in the meaning of Article 6(3) of Regulation (EC) No
1049/2001 regarding public access to documents.

 

In this context, an extended time limit is needed, as we have not yet been
able to gather all the elements necessary to carry out a full analysis of
your requests and to take a final decision.

 

Therefore, we have to extend the time limit with 15 working days in
accordance with Article 7(3) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001. The new time
limit expires on 30/01/2020.

 

We apologise for this delay and for any inconvenience this may cause.

 

María OLIVÁN AVILÉS
Head of Unit

[6]cid:image001.gif@01D13362.41D673C0

European Commission

Secretariat General

Unit C.1 (Transparency, Document Management and Access to Documents)

 

References

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1. file:///tmp/cid:filelist.xml@01D5C6D5.41DF13D0
2. file:///tmp/cid:editdata.mso
3. file:///tmp/~~themedata~~
4. file:///tmp/~~colorschememapping~~
5. https://webgate.ec.testa.eu/Ares/documen...

Maarten Hillebrandt

Dear Secretariat General of the European Commission,

Thank you for your response of 7 January 2020 to my email dated 28 December 2019. I had already sent a reaction to this email. However, it now appears that, due to some technical error, this response has never reached you, which I why I send it again. I apologise for the delay that results from this lapse.

On 9 December 2019, I made 5 separate requests for access to documents, concerning all the Commission’s confirmatory application decisions pertaining to the years 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. After it emerged from the Commission’s response that the Commission estimated the threshold of a reasonable administrative burden, I made a counterproposal to significantly reduce the scope of my requests. Particularly, I offered to withdraw 4 out of 5 my request, focussing exclusively on confirmatory applications decisions pertaining to 2018. Moreover, I declared not to have an interest in the documents attached to the individual decisions. Overall, this resulted in a very significant reduction of the cumulative total of documents requested. By my calculations, this reduces the estimated total number of documents requested to less than 3 per cent of the cumulative total in my original 5 requests. I further note that, compared to previous similar requests, including those filed by myself to the Council, the number of 288 documents amounts to a perfectly reasonable quantity for a request.

I must thus take issue with the Commission’s offer to reduce my access to documents request further to a total of 30 documents from 2018. I conclude that this reduction would corrode the public right of access to documents in this case beyond what is reasonable, and without due justification, even before the requested documents are considered.

First, procedurally, the Commission’s assertion that the amount of handling time is being reduced while we are discussing a fair solution is without legal ground and not consistent with Commission practice. This becomes clear from the fact that Regulation 1049/2001, article 6(3), which deals with the search for a reasonable solution, does not state any time limits, as opposed to article 7, which deals with the initial request phase and which does state time limits. The fact that the legislator decided to place both procedures under different articles of Regulation 1049/2001 underlines this reading. Moreover, a reading by which discussions in search of a fair solution would be counted under an institution’s handling time, would significantly undermine the applicant’s right of the widest possible access, which is the stated purpose of Regulation 1049/2001 (article 1). The institutions would be in a position to draw out exchanges by making manifestly unreasonable proposals for a settlement, as is the current situation, thereby reducing the amount of time left over for the de facto handling of the document request. Such a reading must thus be rejected, and the deadline of 15 + 15 working days must be construed as starting from the moment that a settlement has been reached. This, moreover, is in line with earlier Commission practice, e.g. in my earlier request for access to documents of 5 August 2019, in which the Commission did not register my access request until clarity was reached on its scope. Different treatment without justification, and with detrimental consequences for the applicant, would amount to arbitrary administration.

Second, even if it were hypothetically accepted that exchanges in search of a fair solution come under the handling time limits, I fail to see what the stated deadline of 30 January 2020 is based on, given that I first filed my request on 9 December, and taking into account Commission Decision 2017/C 279/03 on public holidays in 2019 for the institutions of the European Union.

Third, as stated above, I consider the quantity of 288 documents for a request under Regulation 1049/2001, amounting to the consideration of less than 10 documents per, day to be perfectly reasonable. I note that the Commission has not specified in concrete terms why this amount of documents would be unreasonable, taking into account my offer to already significantly reduce the scope of my request. However, even if the scope were still to be considered to constitute an unreasonable administrative burden on the Commission, I likewise note that its counteroffer of 30 documents remains wholly unjustified. This goes against Regulation 1049/2001, which requires the institutions to do everything in their power to offer applicants the widest possible access, and to duly justify reductions of this right.

Finally, materially, I conclude that the reduction proposed by the Commission fails to offer any reasonable satisfaction for the stated purposes of research activity. As stated in my previous email, the purpose of the academic study is the systematic study of Commission responses at the confirmatory application stage. This requires the search for patterns across sufficiently large volumes of confirmatory application decisions and over a sufficiently large period of time. While all decisions covering a whole year could still be construed as such, a total amount of 30 decisions amounts to a sample that cannot be construed as representative. Nor could it, from the perspective of a doctrinal legal perspective, be considered a sufficient sample to draw conclusion on the Commission’s implementation practice of Regulation 1049/2001. For this reason, the counterproposal of the Commission can in no way be construed as a reasonable or fair solution to material purpose that I stated in my email of 28 December. I must further reiterate my previously stated point that there is no reason that confirmatory application decisions should systematically be withheld from the public. The fact that the Council systematically offers access upon request, and even to a large extent proactively discloses, confirmatory application decisions, further militates against the de facto imposition of a general presumption against the requested category of documents.

In light of the reasons offered above and in my previous email of 28 December, I cannot agree with the solution proposed by the Commission regarding my access to documents requests filed on 9 December 2019. I therefore express the sincere hope that the Commission is willing to reconsider its position with regarding to my proposal of 28 December. While the Commission is in a position to unilaterally reduce the scope of my previous requests, I can state at this stage that I would certainly contest any such decision through a fast-track complaint to the European Ombudsman.

Yours sincerely,
Maarten Hillebrandt

Secretariat General of the European Commission

Your message has been received by the Transparency Unit of the
Secretariat-General of the European Commission.
Requests for public access to documents are treated on the basis of
[1]Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to
European Parliament, Council and Commission documents.
The Secretariat-General will reply to your request within 15 working days
upon registration of your request and will duly inform you of the
registration of the request (or of any additional information to be
provided in view of its registration and/or treatment).
 
 
L’unité «Transparence» du secrétariat général de la Commission européenne
a bien reçu votre message.
Les demandes d’accès du public aux documents sont traitées sur la base du
[2]règlement (CE) n° 1049/2001 du 30 mai 2001 relatif à l’accès du public
aux documents du Parlement européen, du Conseil et de la Commission.
Le secrétariat général répondra à votre demande dans un délai de 15 jours
ouvrables à compter de la date d’enregistrement de votre demande, et vous
informera de cet enregistrement (ou vous indiquera toute information
supplémentaire à fournir en vue de l'enregistrement et/ou du traitement de
votre demande).
 
 
Ihre Nachricht ist beim Referat „Transparenz“ des Generalsekretariats der
Europäischen Kommission eingegangen.
Anträge auf Zugang zu Dokumenten werden auf der Grundlage der
[3]Verordnung (EG) Nr. 1049/2001 vom 30. Mai 2001 über den Zugang der
Öffentlichkeit zu Dokumenten des Europäischen Parlaments, des Rates und
der Kommission behandelt.
Das Generalsekretariat beantwortet Ihre Anfrage innerhalb von
15 Arbeitstagen nach deren Registrierung und wird Sie über die
Registrierung Ihres Antrags (oder die Notwendigkeit weiterer Informationen
im Hinblick auf dessen Registrierung und/oder Bearbeitung) unterrichten.
 
 

References

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2. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/...
3. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/...

Secretariat General of the European Commission

2 Attachments

Dear Maarten Hillebrandt,
Please find attached an advanced copy of the reply to your requests for
access to documents with the reference numbers GESTDEM 2019/7132 +
2019/7134 + 2019/7136 + 2019/7137 and 2019/7138. The original letter has
been sent by registered mail to the postal address you have provided for
these requests.
Best regards,
 
ACCESS TO DOCUMENTS TEAM
 
European Commission
Secretariat-General
Unit C1 – Transparency, Document Management & Access to Documents
 
[1]HOW WE PROCESS PERSONAL DATA
 
 
 
 

References

Visible links
1. https://ec.europa.eu/info/principles-and...