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Legal advice on the EU's compliance with the Aarhus Convention

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Päivi Leino-Sandberg

Dear Council of the European Union,

Under the right of access to documents in the EU treaties, as developed in Regulation 1049/2001, I am requesting documents which contain the analysis of the Council Legal Service concerning the EU's compliance with the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, which has been repeatedly questioned by its monitoring bodies.

Yours faithfully,

Päivi Leino-Sandberg
Professor of Transnational European Law

Postmaster Consilium, Conseil de l'Union européenne

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:
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexU...

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:
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexU...

Si le lien ne s'ouvre pas lorsque vous cliquez dessus, veuillez copier-coller l'adresse dans votre navigateur.

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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.

***
Diese Nachricht wurde automatisch generiert. Bitte nicht antworten.
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Den Text der Verordnung (EG) Nr. 1049/2001 finden Sie hier:
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexU...

Wenn sich der Link beim Anklicken nicht öffnet, kopieren Sie den bitte mit "copy/paste" in Ihren Browser.

***

TRANSPARENCY Access to documents (COMM), Conseil de l'Union européenne

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@01D59F80.749EEBA0

 

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

[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), Conseil de l'Union européenne

4 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@01D59F80.749EEBA0

 

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

[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]

Päivi Leino-Sandberg

Dear Council of the European Union,

I am filing the following confirmatory application with regards to my access to documents request 'Legal advice on the EU's compliance with the Aarhus Convention' following your decision of 19 April 2021.

On 12 March 20201 I requested for access to 'documents which contain the analysis of the Council Legal Service concerning the EU's compliance with the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, which has been repeatedly questioned by its monitoring bodies.

In your reply, you identify two legal opinions and provide one general justification for only granting highly limited public access to them.

You argue that while the negotiations on Regulation 1367/2006 have been completed, the advice continues to be relevant for the ongoing revision of the regulation. This would seem to be a highly general justification. If legal advice could be withheld simply because the EU act in question might later be subject to a revision process, this is an argument that would apply generally to all legal advice adopted in legislative matters, and is as such too broad and hypothetical to fulfil the criteria set in Court jurisprudence.

The legislative process in question has come to an end in 2006. It would seem disproportionate that the Council has not disclosed the Opinion during the following 15 years. This practice seems to run counter to Article 12(2) of Regulation 1049/2001, which establishes that "In particular, legislative documents, that is to say, documents drawn up or received in the course of procedures for the adoption of acts which are legally binding in or for the Member States, should, subject to Articles 4 and 9, be made directly accessible."

The Council further explains that the issues analysed in the requested documents are complex. Many topics are, but this question does not seem to be particularly complex and the legal questions involved are well known and broadly debated in civil society.

The Council further refers to how 'third parties may attempt to influence or exert pressure on the policy choices to be made by the institutions. First, the possibility of third parties to influence policy choices is a fundamental aspect of democratic debate in any society governed by the rule of law, which the Council should not undermine. Second, as the General Court recently confirmed in Case T‑252/19:

92 Finally, as regards the Council’s argument that disclosure could lead to the exposure of individual members of its Legal Service to external pressure, it must be recalled that, while the risk of external pressure may constitute a legitimate ground for restricting access to documents related to the decision-making process, the reality of such external pressure must, however, be established with certainty, and evidence must be adduced to show that there is a reasonably foreseeable risk that the decision to be taken would be substantially affected owing to that external pressure (see, to that effect, judgment of 18 December 2008, Muñiz v Commission, T‑144/05, not published, EU:T:2008:596, paragraph 86). It should, however, be noted that, in the present case, the Council’s argument is not substantiated and that there is no tangible evidence in the file to establish the reality of such external pressure.

The same conclusion would seem to apply in this case.

Further, the Council refers to the sensitivity of the identified legal opinions. It is difficult to see how a legislative document that relates to access to information and public participation could be sensitive.

FInally, the Council refers to Article 4(2) second indent of Regulation 1049/2001. The Court has clarified its interpretation in Case T-252/19 quoted above:

89 As regards the existence of a risk that the Council’s ability to defend its position in court proceedings might be undermined, it should be noted that, as the Court of Justice has stated, such a general argument cannot justify an exception to the openness provided for by Regulation No 1049/2001 (see, to that effect, judgment of 1 July 2008, Sweden and Turco v Council, C‑39/05 P and C‑52/05 P, EU:C:2008:374, paragraph 65).

90 In addition, it is apparent from the contested decision that the Council merely indicated that disclosure of the opinion presented a risk of undermining its ability to defend its position, during court proceedings, because the proposed measure, if adopted, would have a direct impact on the allocation of funds, with the result that it was necessary to expect a high risk of litigation in that area and that the questions raised in the opinion would be at issue in any such disputes. The Council merely mentioned, in general terms, hypothetical legal actions and failed to explain how disclosure of the opinion could harm its ability to defend itself. Similarly, the references made by the Council in its written pleadings, without further clarification, to the ‘ongoing debate’ and to its ‘previous experience in similar files’ must be rejected. Those latter factors, which, moreover, do not form part of the statement of reasons for the contested decision, are not relevant and are also incapable of showing how disclosure of the opinion would specifically present a risk that the Council’s ability to defend itself might be undermined.

The same conclusion applies to the explanation offered in the decision that I am appealing.

For the above reasons, I hereby request the Council to reconsider its decision and provide full access to the requested opinions at its earliest convenience.

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

Yours faithfully,

Päivi Leino-Sandberg

Postmaster Consilium, Conseil de l'Union européenne

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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This notification was sent from an unattended mailbox. Please do not reply.
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To see the text of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, please click here:
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexU...

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.

***
S'il vous plaît ne répondez pas à ce message, car il a été envoyé d'une boîte aux lettres sans surveillance.

***

Pour consulter le texte du règlement (CE) n° 1049/2001, cliquez ici:
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexU...

Si le lien ne s'ouvre pas lorsque vous cliquez dessus, veuillez copier-coller l'adresse dans votre navigateur.

***

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.

***
Diese Nachricht wurde automatisch generiert. Bitte nicht antworten.
***

Den Text der Verordnung (EG) Nr. 1049/2001 finden Sie hier:
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexU...

Wenn sich der Link beim Anklicken nicht öffnet, kopieren Sie den bitte mit "copy/paste" in Ihren Browser.

***

TRANSPARENCY Access to documents (COMM), Conseil de l'Union européenne

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Leino-Sandberg,

 

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

 

[1]cid:image001.jpg@01D59F80.749EEBA0

 

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

[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), Conseil de l'Union européenne

4 Attachments

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

Yours sincerely,

 

Transparency

 

[1]cid:image001.jpg@01D59F80.749EEBA0

 

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

[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]

Nous ne savons pas si la réponse la plus récente à cette demande contient l'information ou non – si vous etes Päivi Leino-Sandberg veuillez vous connecter et laisser nous savoir.