Thanks for nothing

Category: Aarhus
European Commission's standpoint on access to infringement information should be altered

Justice&Environment PRESS RELEASE


September 28, 2017


A Position Paper titled "Thanks for Nothing" [1] sent today, at the Right To Know Day, to the European Commission concludes that there is a serious lack of transparency of infringement documents both in the European Union and national level.


The Position Paper points out that while openness is one of the core values of the European Union, the EU institutions fail to ensure a sufficient level of transparency when access to Pilot and infringement information is in question. The document also states that the common ground for refusing access is the preservation of mutual trust between the EU and the Member States. However, nobody talks about trust of the people towards the EU and national institutions which is jeopardized by the current and prevailing practice. Even the European Ombudsman found in her investigation that the issue of transparency in infringement cases is relevant and the Commission has to make progress in order to foster openness [2].


Csaba Kiss, J&E's Aarhus Topic Leader for Access to Documents, said: "The message this practice conveys to the public is that one cannot know how his or her country performs in meeting the requirements of EU membership. Member States are accountable to the Commission but not to its own public. This should be altered by a drastic change in attitude at the Commission and by making openness a rule, not an exception."


The core results of a legal analysis on EU level [3], and a comparative analysis on national cases [4] published by Justice and Environment (J&E) during 2015-2016 have both provided clear evidence that there is no EU law that would prevent the disclosure of infringement data.


Later this year J&E will publish a national problem list presenting the typical problems one faces when claiming data in infringement cases and a toolkit, which aims to help the public with interacting with the EU and national institutions in such cases.


Notes for Editors:


Established in 2003, Association Justice and Environment (J&E) is a European network of environmental law organizations that strives to protect the environment and nature by improving environmental legislation and enhancing the enforcement thereof.


[1] Position Paper "Thanks for Nothing!": Transparency of the EU Pilot and Infringement Procedures. (2017)


[2] Decision of the European Ombudsman setting out suggestions following her strategic inquiry OI/5/2016/AB on timeliness and transparency in the European Commission’s handling of infringement complaints. (2016)


[3] Access to information on infringement procedures in light of the EU legislation and case law. Legal Analysis. (2015)

[4] National level access to infringement documents: the study on the accessibility of data in the framework of national laws by using domestic legal remedies relating to Pilot and infringement procedures started by the European Commission against certain member states. Comparative analysis. (2016)





For more information, please contact:

Csaba Kiss, Aarhus Topic Leader for Access to Documents, J&E, info(at), phone + 36 1 3228462

Katre Liiv, Communications Officer, J&E, communications(at), phone +372 507 6519