In response to the Parliament, which is deferring its first-reading vote to the very last minute of the period provided for by Article 255 of the Treaty, the Swedish Presidency has revived the negotiations for an inter-institutional Council/Parliament agreement on MEPs' access to classified Council information on security and defence matters. The talks are in line with the action the French Presidency took last December. The Presidency acknowledges that as far as the Parliament is concerned there would be no majority support in the Council unless there is an very carefully-thought-out approach to the classification of so-called "sensitive" documents or classified documents ("restricted", "secret", "top secret") and their processing as they pass through the EU and national channels. Conversely, the Member States most keen on restrictive rules, such as France and Spain, see a need to make a step. An Opinion from the Council Legal Service recalls that the right to access to documents, as provided for by Article 255, is not and never will be unlimited. The right balance has to be found, as rules that would make the right to gain access to documents meaningless or, on the contrary, those that provide unlimited access to documents, without taking account of public or private interests, would obviously be illegal in both cases according to the Legal Service.--The Council's Legal Service says that information is classified on the basis of the potential damage to the European Union's essential interests or those of one or more of its Member States from unauthorised disclosure - and that information should remain classified only for as long the data needs to be protected. The security Regulation adopted by the Council in February 2000 in no way represents an obstacle to the classification of documents being examined by the Council with a view to their disclosure to the general public. However, the Legal Service recalls that according to the case-law of the EU Court of First Instance (CFI), the Council is required, for each document to which access is requested, to examine whether, in respect of the information at its disposal, disclosure is indeed liable to damage one of the aspects of public interest protected by the exceptions. The Legal Service argues that the degree of classification of a specific document will probably be considered by the CFI as an indication of the sensitivity of the document's content, but that this will probably not be...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT