ClientEarth wins appeal to European Court of Justice

2nd November 2018

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  • Legislation


Anastasios Skitzis

The case of ClientEarth v European Commission, an application for appeal, has been allowed.

The appeal was made against a decision that refused ClientEarth access to specific documents drawn up while preparing an impact assessment. Documents included an impact assessment report for a proposed binding instrument setting a strategic framework for risk-based inspection and surveillance in relation to EU environmental legislation, as well as to a draft impact assessment report relating to access to justice in environmental matters at member state level in the field of EU environmental policy.

Access to those documents was refused on the basis of Regulation (EC) 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents, which outlines a general presumption that access to certain documents can undermine the Commission’s decision-making process. The Commission also felt there was no overriding public interest for disclosure.

The European Court of Justice allowed the appeal and found that the Commission was not entitled to presume, without carrying out a specific and individual examination of each of the documents drawn up in the context of preparing an impact assessment, that disclosure of those documents would seriously undermine its decision-making process.

It was held that wider access should be granted to documents in cases where the EU institutions were acting in their legislative capacity “to increase the transparency and openness of the legislative process”.

The documents also related to the environment, meaning Regulation (EC) 1367/2006 on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters to Community institutions and bodies applied. This aims to ensure availability of environmental information.

The appeal was allowed, and the decisions refusing access to the documents were withdrawn.

Image credit: iStock


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