Ref. Ares(2019)3194793 - 15/05/2019
DIRECTORATE-GENERAL FOR INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION AND DEVELOPMENT
Ms Josefina Martí
Juan Bravo 62
By registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt
Advance copy by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
application for access to documents –
Ref. GestDem No 2019/1477
Dear Ms Martí,
I refer to your e-mail dated 18 March 2019 registered on 18 March 2019 under the
abovementioned reference number in which you make a request for access to documents.
I also refer to our e-mail of 20 March 2019 by which we informed you of the extension
of the time limit to handle your request by 15 working days.
1. SCOPE OF YOUR REQUEST
In your request, you ask for access to:
“1) All the correspondence (including phone calls, emails and files attached, letters)
between the Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the
EU, Ján Figeľ, and churches, religious communities or any organizations representing
churches and religious communities. The information I ask is from May 2016.
2) A list of all the meetings (from May 2016) and all documents produced and exchanged
in those meetings between Ján Figeľ and churches, religious communities or any
organizations representing churches and religious communities.”
I consider your request to cover documents held up to the date of your application,
namely 11 March 2019.
Based on your application I have identified the documents listed in annex.
2. ASSESSMENT AND CONCLUSIONS UNDER REGULATION (EC) NO 1049/2001
Having examined the documents requested under the provisions of Regulation (EC) No
1049/2001 regarding public access to documents, I have come to the conclusion that they
may be partially disclosed.
Commission européenne/Europese Commissie, 1049 Bruxelles/Brussel, BELGIQUE/BELGIË - Tel. +32 22991111
However, exceptions under Article 4 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 apply, and your
application cannot be granted for document (7.b) (as listed in annex). Its disclosure is
prevented by exceptions to the right of access pursuant to Article 4 of Regulation (EC) No
1049/2001. While I have considered whether partial access could be granted to this
document by providing an expunged version of it, disclosing such expunged remaining
parts would be meaningless, as lacking any substantive content. As regards document (5)
listed in Annex part of it are expunged.
The detailed reasons for the redactions and the refusal are set out below.
2.1. Protection of the public interest as regards international relations
Article 4(1)(a), third 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 […] international relations […]”.
As far as the protection of international relations is concerned, EU Courts have
acknowledged that the institutions enjoy a wide discretion when considering whether
access to a document may undermine that public interest.1
Freedom of religion or belief is a fundamental right enshrined in the Charter of
Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Following a resolution adopted by the
European Parliament in February 2016, the function of the Special Envoy for the
promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union was created and
Ján Figeľ was appointed to this role in May 2016.
The EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief
approved by EU Member States in 2013 provide the policy framework for the Special
Envoy’s mandate. The mandate focuses on promoting freedom of thought, conscience,
religion and belief, and the rights to non-belief, also paying attention to the situation of
(non-) believers at risk. To carry out his duties, the Special Envoy pays country visits,
participates in international initiatives and multilateral processes and conducts dialogues
with governmental and non-governmental actors, including religious organisations, civil
society, religious actors, and academia.
Stakeholders often operate in contexts marked by a wide range of violations and are
themselves at risk. It is essential to the fulfilment of the Special Envoy’s role that his
interlocutors may exchange information, express their opinions and share views in an
atmosphere of trust and confidentiality. The sensitivity of the issues dealt with by the
Special Envoy reinforces the expectations of confidentiality.
Document (7.b) and the withheld parts of document (5) reflect the position of
representatives of religious communities on the situation of freedom of religion or belief
and set out specific concerns on the status of specific religious groups in certain
geographical areas. Disclosure of this information would render the specific concerns of
these religious communities public and breach expectations of confidentiality, would
result in a less effective implementation of the Special Envoy’s mandate, and would
harm the external relations of the EU in the pursuit of the EU’s policy objectives.
I therefore conclude that document (7.b) and parts of document (5) have to be withheld
based on Article 4(1)(a) third indent (protection of international relations) of Regulation
(EC) No 1049/2001.
1 Judgment of the Court of First Instance of 25 April 2007, WWF European Policy Programme v Council
T-264/04, EU:T:2007:114, paragraph 40.
2.1. Protection of privacy and the integrity of the individual
Pursuant to Article 4(1)(b) of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, access to a document has
to be refused if its disclosure would undermine the protection of privacy and the integrity
of the individual, in particular in accordance with European Union legislation regarding
the protection of personal data.
The applicable legislation in this field is Regulation (EU) 2018/1725 of the European
Parliament and of the Council of 23 October 2018 on the protection of natural persons
with regard to the processing of personal data by the Union institutions, bodies, offices
and agencies and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Regulation (EC) No
45/2001 and Decision No 1247/2002/EC2 (‘Regulation 2018/1725’).
The documents to which you request access contain personal data, in particular names,
(e-mail) addresses, phone numbers, signatures, political opinions, religious beliefs of
Indeed, Article 3(1) of Regulation 2018/1725 provides that personal data “means any
information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person […]”. The Court of
Justice of the European Union has specified that any information, which by reason of its
content, purpose or effect, is linked to a particular person is to be considered as personal
Please note in this respect that the names, signatures, functions, telephone numbers
and/or initials pertaining to staff members of an institution are to be considered personal
In its judgment in Case C-28/08 P (Bavarian Lager)5, the Court of Justice of the
European Union ruled that when a request is made for access to documents containing
personal data, the Data Protection Regulation becomes fully applicable.6
Pursuant to Article 9(1)(b) of Regulation 2018/1725, personal data shall only be
transmitted to recipients established in the Union other than Union institutions and bodies
if “[t]he recipient establishes that it is necessary to have the data transmitted for a specific
purpose in the public interest and the controller, where there is any reason to assume that
the data subject’s legitimate interests might be prejudiced, establishes that it is
proportionate to transmit the personal data for that specific purpose after having
demonstrably weighed the various competing interests”.
Only if these conditions are fulfilled and the processing constitutes lawful processing in
accordance with the requirements of Article 5 of Regulation 2018/1725, can the
transmission of personal data occur.
2 Official Journal L 205 of 21.11.2018, p. 39.
3 Judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 20 December 2017 in Case C-434/16, Peter
Nowak v Data Protection Commissioner
, request for a preliminary ruling, paragraphs 33-35, ECLI:EU:C:2017:994.
4 Judgment of the General Court of 19 September 2018 in case T-39/17, Port de Brest v Commission
5 Judgment of 29 June 2010 in Case C-28/08 P, European Commission v The Bavarian Lager Co. Ltd
EU:C:2010:378, paragraph 59.
6 Whereas this judgment specifically related to 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, the
principles set out therein are also applicable under the new data protection regime established by
According to Article 9(1)(b) of Regulation 2018/1725, the European Commission has to
examine the further conditions for a lawful processing of personal data only if the first
condition is fulfilled, namely if the recipient has established that it is necessary to have
the data transmitted for a specific purpose in the public interest. It is only in this case that
the Commission has to examine whether there is a reason to assume that the data
subject’s legitimate interests might be prejudiced and, in the affirmative, establish the
proportionality of the transmission of the personal data for that specific purpose after
having demonstrably weighed the various competing interests.
In your request, you do not put forward arguments to establish the necessity to have the
data transmitted for a specific purpose in the public interest. Therefore, the Commission
does not have to examine whether there is a reason to assume that the data subject’s
legitimate interests might be prejudiced.
Notwithstanding the above, note that there are reasons to assume that the legitimate
interests of the data subjects concerned would be prejudiced by disclosure of the personal
data reflected in the documents, as there is a real and non-hypothetical risk that such
public disclosure would harm their privacy and subject them to unsolicited external
Consequently, I conclude that, pursuant to Article 4(1)(b) of Regulation (EC) No
1049/2001, access cannot be granted to the personal data, as the need to obtain access
thereto for a purpose in the public interest has not been substantiated and there is no
reason to think that the legitimate interests of the individuals concerned would not be
prejudiced by disclosure of the personal data concerned.
As to the signatures, which are biometric data, there is a risk that their disclosure would
prejudice the legitimate interests of the persons concerned.
In accordance with Article 7(2) of Regulation EC (No) 1049/2001, you are entitled to make
a confirmatory application requesting the Commission to review this position.
Such a confirmatory application should be addressed within 15 working days upon
receipt of this letter to the Secretariat-General of the Commission at the following
Unit C.1. ‘Transparency, Document Management and Access to Documents’
Rue de la Loi 200
or by e-mail to:
Electronically signed on 14/05/2019 19:29 (UTC+02) in accordance with article 4.2 (Validity of electronic documents) of Commission Decision 2004/563