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Ombudsman welcomes European Parliament's suggestions to improve public access to EU documents

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Press release no. 06/2009

11 March 2009

The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has welcomed today's vote in the European Parliament (EP) on the Cashman Report which aims to ensure wider public access to EU documents. The report is the EP's response to the European Commission's proposals to change the current rules. The Ombudsman has repeatedly expressed concerns that the Commission's proposals would mean access to fewer, not more, documents.

Speaking after the vote, Mr Diamandouros said: "I am very pleased that the European Parliament has, in effect, asked the Commission to rethink and modify its proposals. I very much hope that the Commission will agree to do so."

The Ombudsman welcomes the following key points of the Cashman Report:

  • the broad definition of a document, including "any data or content whatever its medium", as well as information contained in databases
  • the possibility for the Ombudsman to advise on the existence of a public interest in disclosure of a document, before a final decision is taken
  • the improvement and expansion of the institutions' public registers of documents
  • the appointment of information officers in the institutions, who will be responsible for the correct application of the access to documents rules
  • the principle that Member States should grant to their citizens at national level at least the same level of transparency concerning EU documents as is available at the EU level
  • the elimination of Member States' right to veto the disclosure of documents about how they implement Community law.

The Ombudsman expressed his hope that the Cashman Report would serve as a basis for a common position acceptable to all institutions and benefiting all European citizens to be reached under the Swedish EU presidency in the second half of 2009.

The European Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration in the EU institutions and bodies. Any EU citizen, resident, or an enterprise or association in a Member State, can lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman offers a fast, flexible, and free means of solving problems with the EU administration. For more information: www.ombudsman.europa.eu

For press inquiries: Ms Gundi Gadesmann, Deputy Head of the Communication Unit, tel.: +32 2 284 26 09, Twitter: @EUombudsman

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