Madrid, 2 September 2016 – Since the beginning of August, requesters of access to EU documents may have noticed the following automated messages from the Secretariat General warning them about possible delays to dealing with requests:
“Due to the holiday period in August, some delays may occur in the treatment of your access-to-documents request, especially where the processing of data requires the consultation of national administrations, external organisations or other services.”
So far during August, Access Info has counted 22 instances of this specific message appearing on the AsktheEU.org request platform.
It is unacceptable for citizens to have to anticipate systematic delays because their requests are submitted during the summer months.
The EU’s transparency rules (Regulation 1049/2001) establish that “An application for access to a document shall be handled promptly” and within a maximum 15 day time frame. The rules also provide that extensions should only be applied in “exceptional cases…in the event of an application relating to a very long document or to a very large number of documents” and with “detailed reasons” outlining why.
In this context it becomes both absurd but necessary that Access Info remind institutions that the right of access to information is a fundamental human right recognised in the EU treaties (Article 15(3) TFEU) as well as in international courts and other bodies.
As such, it does not become less applicable during the summer than in other months of the year. Whilst August may see a lower number of staff working in EU institutions, they are still bound by the rules and standards that apply; delays to responding to access to documents requests should be rare and fully justified when extensions are applied.
Access Info has written to the Head of Transparency at the Secretariat General to confirm how many responses to access to EU documents requests were delayed during August 2016, and whether this notification is a formal policy decision, taken at what level, and with which legal justification.
Furthermore, Access Info calls upon all EU institutions to commit to the rules set out in Regulation 1049/2001 by ensuring there are no undue delays to answering requests and that the application of extensions for responding to requests are rare and fully justified. Any such automated messages which are sent out during August should be withdrawn.