Dear Council of the EU,

Under the right of access to documents in the EU treaties, as developed in Regulation 1049/2001, I am requesting documents which contain the following information:

All text messages (i.e., SMS messages) and other mobile-phone-based text communications (e.g., WhatsApp, Telegram, iMessage, Facebook Chat, SnapChat, Slack, Facebook and Twitter "direct messages," Signal Messenger, Wire, etc.) sent by – or on behalf of – Council President Donald Tusk in exchange with EU and foreign heads of state or heads of government in 2018

Yours faithfully,

Alexander Fanta

Postmaster Consilium, Council of the EU

Your message has been received by the Transparency and Access to Documents Unit of the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. All requests for access to documents are treated on the basis of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to
European Parliament, Council and Commission documents. The General Secretariat will reply to your request within 15 working days upon registration of your request. Requests received before 5 PM on a working day are registered on the same day. Requests received after 5 PM are registered on the first following working day.

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L'unité "Transparence et accès aux documents" du Secrétariat général du Conseil de l'Union européenne a bien reçu votre message. Toutes les demandes d'accès à des documents sont traitées conformément au 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 l'enregistrement de celle-ci. Les demandes reçues les jours ouvrables avant 17 heures sont enregistrées le jour même. Les demandes reçues après 17 heures sont enregistrées le premier jour ouvrable suivant.

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Ihre Nachricht ist bei der Dienststelle "Transparenz und Zugang zu Dokumenten" des General-sekretariats des Rates der Europäischen Union eingegangen. Alle Anträge auf Zugang zu Dokumenten werden gemäß der Verordnung (EG) Nr. 1049/2001 vom 30. Mai 2001 über den Zugang der Öffentlichkeit zu Dokumenten des Europäischen Parlaments, des Rates und der Kommission bearbeitet. Das Generalsekretariat wird Ihnen binnen fünfzehn Arbeitstagen nach Registrierung Ihres Antrags eine Antwort übermitteln. Anträge, die an einem Arbeitstag vor 17.00 Uhr eingehen, werden noch am selben Tages registriert. Nach 17.00 Uhr eingehende Anträge werden am erstfolgenden Arbeitstag registriert.

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TRANSPARENCY Access to documents (COMM), Council of the EU

2 Attachments

Please find attached a letter from the General Secretariat of the Council
concerning your request for access to documents.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Transparency

 

[1]cid:image001.jpg@01CFD3F6.0B583760

 

Council of the European Union

General Secretariat

Directorate-General Communication and Information - COMM

Directorate Information and Outreach

Information Services Unit

 

Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat, 175 - B-1048 Bruxelles/Brussel - Belgique/België

[2]www.consilium.europa.eu  |  [3][email address]

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed are solely those of the writer and may not
be regarded as stating an official position of the Council of the EU

Clause de non-responsabilité: Les avis exprimés n'engagent que leur auteur
et ne peuvent être considérés comme une position officielle du Conseil de
l'UE

 

References

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2. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/
3. mailto:[email address]

TRANSPARENCY Access to documents (COMM), Council of the EU

2 Attachments

Please find attached a letter from the General Secretariat of the Council
concerning your request for access to documents.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

 

Transparency

 

[1]cid:image001.jpg@01CFA5C5.5240EA00

 

Council of the European Union

General Secretariat

Directorate-General Communication and Information - COMM

Directorate Information and Outreach

Information Services Unit

 

Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat, 175 - B-1048 Bruxelles/Brussel - Belgique/België

[2]www.consilium.europa.eu  |  [3][email address]

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed are solely those of the writer and may not
be regarded as stating an official position of the Council of the EU

Clause de non-responsabilité: Les avis exprimés n'engagent que leur auteur
et ne peuvent être considérés comme une position officielle du Conseil de
l'UE

 

References

Visible links
2. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/
3. mailto:[email address]

Dear Council of the EU,

Please pass this on to the person who reviews confirmatory applications.

I am filing the following confirmatory application with regards to my access to documents request 'SMS of Donald Tusk and leaders'.

On 26 January 2019, I submitted an access to documents request for: “All text messages (i.e., SMS messages) and other mobile-phone-based text communications (e.g., WhatsApp, Telegram, iMessage, Facebook Chat, SnapChat, Slack, Facebook and Twitter "direct messages," Signal Messenger, Wire, etc.) sent by – or on behalf of – Council President Donald Tusk in exchange with EU and foreign heads of state or heads of government in 2018”

The request was registered by the Council on 28 January 2019 under reference 19/0266-mj/jj.

On 11 March 2019, the Council refused access to my request arguing that: “no such SMS messages or other mobile-phone-based text communications sent out in the professional context containing substantial and not short-lived information that would be considered as documents drawn up by the European Council within the meaning of Article 3(a) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 are in the possession of the GSC.”

To this regard, I would like to argue that:

1. Text messages and other mobile-phone based text communications do fall under the definition of “document” in Regulation 1049/2001.

Article 3 (a) of Regulation 1049/2001 reads: “‘document’ shall mean any content whatever its medium (written on paper or stored in electronic form or as a sound, visual or audiovisual recording) concerning a matter relating to the policies, activities and decisions falling within the institution's sphere of responsibility;”

To this extent, the Council cannot validly argue that a text message does not constitute “content” transmitted via an electronic “medium”. It is also undeniable that all correspondence - including text messages and other mobile-phone-based communications - exchanged between Council President Donald Tusk and EU heads of state and government fall, at the very least, into “a matter relating to” “activities” within the Council’s responsibility, if not “policies” and/or “decisions”.

It is in fact public knowledge that mobile-phone-based communications take place between politicians - and among European leaders in particular -, and that when these communications happen, they will frequently relate to a policy matter or to an activity or decision that affects the public interest.

Example of this kind of practice can be found in news reports. A recent story by Yahoo! Finance describes a Commission spokesperson stating that EC President Juncker and UK Prime Minister May are in touch via text message. [1] A recent Guardian story notes that diplomats outside of the room are informed about progress at Council meeting by text message [2]. Also, President Tusk has reportedly done important negotiations via text. According to a story by the Associated Press, Greek debt crisis negotiations in July 2015 were saved by SMS between President Tusk and Dutch Premier Mark Rutte.

Given that the scope of my initial request covers the whole of the year 2018, and taking into account the examples mentioned above, it is hard to believe that the Council would not be able to find text messages sent by Mr Tusk “relating to the policies, activities and decisions falling within the institution's sphere of responsibility” - thus making text messages a “document” according to Regulation 1049/2001.

2. A refusal based on the consideration of information as “substantial” and “short-lived” is out of line with Regulation of 1049/2001.

As stated above, the Council’s refusal is based on an erred interpretation of Article 3 (a) of Regulation 1049/2001. However, it is worth mentioning that the Council bases its arguments on considerations regarding the content of text messages, not the format.

Article 3 (a) establishes that, for a “document” to be considered as such, “content” and “medium” need to exist. The Article does not limit certain types of content (such as substantial or non-substantial; short-lived or long-lived) that could define a document as such. On the contrary, only the existence of “content” and “medium” must be demonstrated, which in this case it has.

On the other hand, if the actual nature of the content is suitable for release or not, is something that is covered by a series of legitimate exceptions to access listed in other articles of Regulation 1049/2001, such as Article 4. None of these articles include non-“substantial” or “short-lived” as legitimate grounds for refusing access to an EU document.

The Council’s argument therefore lacks any kind of legal basis under EU law, and cannot be considered as a valid.

3. Other types of documents that constitute exchange of messages of a non-substantial and short-lived nature are frequently considered suitable for disclosure under Regulation 1049/2001.

It is common practice by EU institutions to release documents that constitute futile or short-lived communications between EU officials, such as e-mails.

In terms of “content” and “medium”, in the year 2019, there is little difference between e-mail communication and text message communication. If, for years now, the EU has considered that e-mails fall under Article 3 (a)’s definition of “document”, the Council cannot validly argue that a text message, which merely constitutes a technologically-advanced version of an e-mail message, does not fall under the definition of “document” as well.

To this regard, I would like to recall that the European Ombudsman has established that ensuring the right of public access to documents should be consistent with technological development. [4]

Therefore, given that the factual and legal basis for considering text messages a “document” under Regulation 1049/2001 has been clearly established, and that adapting EU law and its interpretation to technological progress has been considered in line with the principle of good administration, I am calling on the Council to:

- rectify its initial assessment that text messages and other mobile-phone-based communications do not fall under the scope of Article 3 (a) of Regulation 1049/2001; and

- disclose all text messages and other mobile-phone-based text communications sent by – or on behalf of – Council President Donald Tusk in exchange with EU and foreign heads of state or heads of government in 2018.

Thank you in advance.

A full history of my request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.asktheeu.org/en/request/sms_...

Yours faithfully,

Alexander Fanta

Notes:
[1] https://finance.yahoo.com/news/may-calls...
[2]https://www.theguardian.com/politics/201...
[3]https://apnews.com/420b699b2dae44808f148...
[4] https://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/en/lette...

Postmaster Consilium, Council of the EU

Your message has been received by the Transparency and Access to Documents Unit of the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. All requests for access to documents are treated on the basis of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to
European Parliament, Council and Commission documents. The General Secretariat will reply to your request within 15 working days upon registration of your request. Requests received before 5 PM on a working day are registered on the same day. Requests received after 5 PM are registered on the first following working day.

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To see the text of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, please click here:
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If the link doesn't open when you click on it, please copy - paste it into your browser.

***

L'unité "Transparence et accès aux documents" du Secrétariat général du Conseil de l'Union européenne a bien reçu votre message. Toutes les demandes d'accès à des documents sont traitées conformément au 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 l'enregistrement de celle-ci. Les demandes reçues les jours ouvrables avant 17 heures sont enregistrées le jour même. Les demandes reçues après 17 heures sont enregistrées le premier jour ouvrable suivant.

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Pour consulter le texte du règlement (CE) n° 1049/2001, cliquez ici:
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Ihre Nachricht ist bei der Dienststelle "Transparenz und Zugang zu Dokumenten" des General-sekretariats des Rates der Europäischen Union eingegangen. Alle Anträge auf Zugang zu Dokumenten werden gemäß der Verordnung (EG) Nr. 1049/2001 vom 30. Mai 2001 über den Zugang der Öffentlichkeit zu Dokumenten des Europäischen Parlaments, des Rates und der Kommission bearbeitet. Das Generalsekretariat wird Ihnen binnen fünfzehn Arbeitstagen nach Registrierung Ihres Antrags eine Antwort übermitteln. Anträge, die an einem Arbeitstag vor 17.00 Uhr eingehen, werden noch am selben Tages registriert. Nach 17.00 Uhr eingehende Anträge werden am erstfolgenden Arbeitstag registriert.

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TRANSPARENCY Access to documents (COMM), Council of the EU

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Fanta,

 

Please find attached a letter from the General Secretariat of the Council
extending the time limit for the Council to reply to your confirmatory
application for public access under Regulation 1049/2001.

Yours sincerely,

 

Transparency

 

 

General Secretariat of the Council

Directorate-General Communication and Information - COMM
Directorate Information and Outreach
Information Services Unit / Transparency

Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat, 175 - B-1048 Bruxelles/Brussel - Belgique/België

[1]www.consilium.europa.eu  |  [2][email address]

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed are solely those of the writer and may not
be regarded as stating an official position of the Council of the EU

Clause de non-responsabilité: Les avis exprimés n'engagent que leur auteur
et ne peuvent être considérés comme une position officielle du Conseil de
l'UE

 

 

 

References

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1. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/
2. mailto:[email address]

TRANSPARENCY Access to documents (COMM), Council of the EU

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Fanta,

 

Please find attached a letter from the General Secretariat of the Council
in reply to your confirmatory application for public access to documents
under Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001.

 

Yours sincerely,

Transparency

 

[1]cid:image004.jpg@01D214AC.BD275E50

 

General Secretariat of the Council

Directorate-General Communication and Information - COMM

Directorate Information and Outreach

Information Services Unit

 

Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat, 175 - B-1048 Bruxelles/Brussel - Belgique/België

[2]www.consilium.europa.eu  |  [3][email address]

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed are solely those of the writer and may not
be regarded as stating an official position of the Council of the EU

Clause de non-responsabilité: Les avis exprimés n'engagent que leur auteur
et ne peuvent être considérés comme une position officielle du Conseil de
l'UE

 

 

References

Visible links
2. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/
3. mailto:[email address]

TRANSPARENCY Access to documents (COMM), Council of the EU

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Fanta,

For the procedural reasons we would like to kindly ask you to provide us
with your complete postal address in order to be able to send you the
reply of the European Council to your confirmatory application by
registered mail.

 

Thank you in advance.

 

Kind regards,

 

Transparency

 

[1]cid:image004.jpg@01D214AC.BD275E50

 

General Secretariat of the Council

Directorate-General Communication and Information - COMM

Directorate Information and Outreach

Information Services Unit

 

Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat, 175 - B-1048 Bruxelles/Brussel - Belgique/België

[2]www.consilium.europa.eu  |  [3][email address]

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed are solely those of the writer and may not
be regarded as stating an official position of the Council of the EU

Clause de non-responsabilité: Les avis exprimés n'engagent que leur auteur
et ne peuvent être considérés comme une position officielle du Conseil de
l'UE

 

 

 

 

References

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2. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/
3. mailto:[email address]

Alexander Fanta

Dear TRANSPARENCY Access to documents (COMM),

my postal address is:

netzpolitik.org
Rue de la Loi 155
1040 Bruxelles

Yours sincerely,

Alexander Fanta

Postmaster Consilium, Council of the EU

Your message has been received by the Transparency and Access to Documents Unit of the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. All requests for access to documents are treated on the basis of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to
European Parliament, Council and Commission documents. The General Secretariat will reply to your request within 15 working days upon registration of your request. Requests received before 5 PM on a working day are registered on the same day. Requests received after 5 PM are registered on the first following working day.

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Ihre Nachricht ist bei der Dienststelle "Transparenz und Zugang zu Dokumenten" des General-sekretariats des Rates der Europäischen Union eingegangen. Alle Anträge auf Zugang zu Dokumenten werden gemäß der Verordnung (EG) Nr. 1049/2001 vom 30. Mai 2001 über den Zugang der Öffentlichkeit zu Dokumenten des Europäischen Parlaments, des Rates und der Kommission bearbeitet. Das Generalsekretariat wird Ihnen binnen fünfzehn Arbeitstagen nach Registrierung Ihres Antrags eine Antwort übermitteln. Anträge, die an einem Arbeitstag vor 17.00 Uhr eingehen, werden noch am selben Tages registriert. Nach 17.00 Uhr eingehende Anträge werden am erstfolgenden Arbeitstag registriert.

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