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The EU, access to environmental information and the open society

Ludwig Krämer

elni Review 2013,  pp. 38-43. https://doi.org/10.46850/elni.2013.005

The Treaties of Lisbon which entered into force at the end of 2009, underlined no less than five times that the European Union (EU) adheres to the principles of an open society. This commitment is further strengthened by the reevaluation of the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights of 20002, which obtained, through the Lisbon Treaties, the same legal value as the Lisbon Treaties themselves and which gave EU citizens a fundamental right of access to information, stressing that the EU "placed the individual at the heart of its activities". In practice, it is alarming to see how much expert opinion, research results, studies, data and facts are withheld from the interested public in EU environmental matters. Numerous data are stored and monitored by the EU administration without being made public – as if the environment were the private property of the administration and not of everybody. Administrative inertia, professional or commercial secrets, the power which is given to superior knowledge, all these contribute to the present "mafia of silence". What is worse, some groups, representing organized or vested interests, have informal means of access to data which are in the hands of the administration.
This article by Ludwig Krämer analyses the practice of access to documents within the EU on the basis of several examples of legislation, and its use and interpretation by the EU Courts of Justice in the area of access to environmental information.

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References

  1. Consolidated version of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), OJ 2012 C 326/13.
  2. Consolidated version of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), OJ 2012 C 226/47.
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  37. Court of Justice of the European Union, 2013, Judgment of the General Court (Fourth Chamber) of 15 January 2013. Guido Strack v European Commission. Access to documents - Regulation (EC ) No 1049/2001 - Documents relating to confirmatory applications for access to documents and to a case brought before the General Court - Document register - Action for annulment - Implied refusal of access - Interest in bringing proceedings - Admissibility - Partial refusal of access - Exception relating to the protection of the privacy and the integrity of the individual - Exception relating to the protection of the decision-making process - Duty to state reasons - Non-contractual liability (Case T-392/07).