Access Info Europe had a hearing today in the General Court of the European Union in the case for access to documents it brought against the Commission, seeking access to certain documents containing legal analysis and advice relating to the EU-Turkey refugee return deal.
This case started at the very same time as the EU-Turkey deal was reached (EU summit 17-18 March 2016) in the face of concerns raised by key human rights bodies such as the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner and the UNHCR about the deal’s content.
“Our goal was to get a full picture of this controversial deal. We believe it essential that the public know what the Commission’s legal advice is: what options were discussed and what legal analysis was made of the consequences for existing EU legislation and safeguards of human rights,” stated Luisa Izuzquiza, Communications Officer at Access Info, who submitted the initial access to documents request.
Today the General Court heard the arguments of the European Commission as to why the Commission had refused access to the documents. The refusal decision of the Commission was based on the need to protect international relations, ongoing court proceedings, legal advice, and decision making, and the Commission rejected any idea of an overriding public interest in obtaining these documents.
The Access Info legal team, assisted by Onno W. Brouwer, discussed these arguments, explaining why Access Info takes the view that these exceptions should not apply as broadly as they were, and why the existing case law should ensure that Access Info should have obtained full or a significant broader access to the requested documents.
“In addition to questioning the broad refusal of access, we have also argued that access to these documents is essential for public participation in and for accountability of EU decision-making processes in an area that directly affects the EU, people’s lives, and human rights,” notes Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info.