Civil society Jurisprudence

European Court of Justice upholds judgement in Access Info Europe appeal

The Court of Justice of the EU dismisses in full the Council’s appeal against an earlier judgement in the much publicised Access Info Europe case.


The long awaited judgement of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in the Access Info Europe appeal was finally handed down last week, on 17 October. After losing a case against Access Info Europe (AIE) in front of the lower General Court, the Council appealed. The CJEU now has found that the General Court’s judgement was correct and must therefore be upheld. In total, three separate pleas in law filed by the Council were refuted.

On its website, AIE director Helen Darbishire commented: “If the Council applies this ruling to all similar documents, this would finally provide a similar level of transparency at the EU level as one would normally find in national legislative processes.” On Twitter, AIE spoke in equally superlative terms, saying that it was “More than satisfied! The decision we hope will open the door to a more participatory and transparency EU!” The Council, meanwhile, has not given the case any attention on its news homepage.

The AIE saga started in December 2008 when the Madrid-based civil liberties organisation applied for a document stating the positions of the Council Member States with regard to the revision of the current access to documents law. It has been closely followed by this blog.

The matter of the AIE case relates closely to the supposedly democratic purpose of the right of access to documents, as AIE argued the Member State positions were required in order for citizens to hold the Council Members to account, and to participate in decision-making. The AIE application for access was first upheld by the General Court. When the Council appealed, the democratic case for access was forcefully defended by Advocate-General Cruz Villalón. The CJEU essentially upholds this reasoning, albeit as part of a strictly procedural review of the earlier judgement, and without a single reference to the Advocate-General’s opinion. -MH