PositionBritish-American Tobacco Company Ltd. case - Brief Article

The Commission presides over the Committee on Excise Duties and each Member State is represented on it. In April 1998, the Committee agreed to subject 'expanded' tobacco - an intermediary product - to excise duties. British American Tobacco, which exports the product from the United Kingdom to several Member States, was unhappy with this decision. In January 2000, it asked the Commission to provide it with the minutes of the relevant meetings. It applied under the code of conduct on access to documents adopted by Commission in 1994 (Decision 94/90/EC). The Commission eventually granted partial access but suppressed the identities of national delegations mentioned in the minutes.British American Tobacco argued that despite harmonisation of excise duties in the EU, there are major differences in how national customs authorities treat expanded tobacco. Thus, it is legitimate to ask the Commission to disclose the position of the national delegations. The Commission countered that discussions between Member States must remain full, frank and honest and therefore confidential. In order to examine the case, the Court of First Instance asked the Commission to provide it with the documents, in line with new rules of procedure adopted by the Court on December 6, 2001.The ruling.The Court observed that under the Commission's own code of conduct, exceptions to...

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