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Decision on the European Defence Agency's (EDA) refusal to give public access to the minutes of meetings of its 'expert groups' (case 1272/2022/KR)

Måndag | 30 januari 2023

The case concerned a request from a journalist for public access to the minutes of meetings of the working bodies of the EDA. These minutes relate to discussions and exchanges on defence and military matters between technical experts from participating Member States and, in certain cases, experts from defence and security industry groups.

The EDA considered that the request related to a substantial amount of documents (over 9000 pages of documents). The EDA refused access to the documents in question, based on the view that various exceptions applied that are provided in EU legislation on public access to documents.

The EDA also informed the complainant that it makes public general information about the activities of its working bodies, with the aim to provide transparency and ensure accountability.

During the inquiry, the Ombudsman inquiry team inspected a sample of the documents in question, given the substantial amount of documentation concerned. The inspection confirmed that the exceptions to public access that were invoked apply to this sample.

While the Ombudsman therefore found no maladministration, she made the following suggestion for improvement: when dealing with public access requests involving a large volume of documents in scope, the EDA should seek to find a fair solution with applicants. Where, as part of a fair solution, the EDA proposes to rely on a sample of the documents requested, it should clearly communicate and explain this to applicants, provide an overview of the documents requested and propose either that the EDA chooses a representative sample or that applicants choose a reasonable sample.