October 15, 2011

The European Parliament services denied the existence of ACTA documents four times

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The European Parliament services denied the existence of INTA coordinators’ minutes (regarding ACTA) four times. Under EU law, Institutions can refuse access to documents in some cases. But EU law does not provide a possibility to deny or obfuscate the existence of documents. See our 5 October letter to the INTA secretariat.

Dear INTA secretariat,

I would like to kindly thank you for your elaborate answer to my request for information and documents. However, there are still some issues.

As you know, I could not find any written documentation for the decisions to request a legal opinion of the Parliament’s Legal Service and to commission an external study. New information is now available.

On Friday 23 September 2011, MEP Carl Schlyter wrote to the Chairman of the INTA committee:

Quote

Dear Chair Mr Moreira, after the debate over ACTA it was found necessary to revise the first version of the Coordinators’ Minutes as to it’s content and conclusion of the debate. Unfortunately it seems that a confusion over content, rather than the revision itself, has propagated into the to the request to the Legal Service which was the object of the discussion.

A comparison of the Minutes with your letter to the Legal Service finds that the INTA Coordinators’ explicit reference to IPRED2 is unfortunately omitted. The Coordinators’ Minutes says (quoting from final version INTA(2011)0621_2): “Decision: […] to ask the Legal Service for a legal opinion that should point to:[…] * regarding criminal measures in relation to the conditions set by the European Parliament, in its position of 25 April 2007 on the IPRED2 proposal of the Commission ”

End quote

On 28 July, the Register informed me: “No separate minutes for the Coordinators meetings exist”. On 5 August the Register wrote: “The right to submit a confirmatory application only applies in the event of a total or partial refusal. We did not mention the possibility of a confirmatory application because we did not send you a formal refusal. We sent you the link where to find certain documents requested or we informed you that other documents did not exist.” On 17 August the Register wrote: “Perhaps we should have included the following main elements in bold: The right to submit a confirmatory application only applies in the event of a total or partial refusal. We did not mention the possibility of a confirmatory application because we did not send you a formal refusal. We sent you the link where to find certain documents requested or we informed you that other documents either did not exist or the Parliament does not possess copy of them.”

These statements now turn out to be wrong. MEP Schlyter mentions “Coordinators’ Minutes” and provides a document name.

The INTA committee secretariat knows the coordinators’ minutes do exist. Yet you wrote me: “Given the nature of these meetings, there is no related, written information or documentation to provide.”

Under EU law Institutions can refuse access to documents in some cases. But EU law does not provide a possibility to deny or obfuscate the existence of documents. The INTA secretariat did just that. I urge the secretariats to record all existing documents in one of the EP document management systems. Then the Register can provide correct information from the start. Then the public can appeal against decisions to keep documents confidential.

The coordinators’ minutes contain essential information that should have been shared with the public. They reveal an error the Chairman of the INTA committee made. Everyone can make a mistake, also for this reason transparency is important.

It seems the Parliament’s services are not independent enough from the Parliament’s political processes. This compromises the Parliament’s integrity.

Furthermore, the discussions on requesting a legal opinion of the Parliament’s Legal Service and on commissioning an external study could and should have taken place in public.

Annex VIII.A. of the Rules of Procedure does not apply, since the ACTA text had already been published at the time the decisions were made.

Rules of Procedure 103 (Transparency of Parliament’s activities) says: “1. Parliament shall ensure that its activities are conducted with the utmost transparency, in accordance with the second paragraph of Article 1 of the Treaty on European Union, Article 15 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 42 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.”

The conclusion seems justified that the European Parliament violated the Rules of Procedure, the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

I first requested the documents on 8 July 2011. I note that I have filed two confirmatory applications already.

I would like to receive, within 15 days, the requested documents, specifically including final version INTA(2011)0621_2 and all other versions of this document.

I would like to receive, a new request, further communication between the (Chairman of the) INTA Committee and the Legal Services, for instance in case MEP Schlyter’s request did lead to a new / updated request to the Legal Services.

Yours sincerely,

Ante Wessels