De Jong: "European Court protects lobbyists"

30 June 2010

De Jong: "European Court protects lobbyists"

The SP has described as 'disappointing' yesterday's decision on transparency by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The case concerned Bavarian Lager beer, but has gained wider significance, becoming a symbolic action in relation to greater access to documents. The ECJ ruled that the European Commission may refuse access to documents on the grounds that revealing identity could have consequences for lobbyists' private lives. "It's a pity that the Court has in this way missed a major chance to increase transparency," says SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong.

Dennis de JongLobbyists will, De Jong argues, gain unnecessary protection as a result of this decision. "They always act in the name of an organisation and not as private individuals. But it's also of interest to know whether negotiations involved the director of a firm or a junior member of staff, in order to have an idea of the weight of a particular lobby. This information will now be withheld."

The ECJ's ruling is remarkable when one considers that the initial judgement from Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston took the opposite position. Her advice was not adopted by the Court, as a result of which it will remain possible to leave important information out of publicly accessible documents.

"There is a great deal of criticism of the manner in which the European Union consults expert opinion," De Jong points out. "That the Commission wants to prevent access to experts' identity will of course not help deflect such criticism. It's extremely disappointing." The SP is a strong supporter in the European Parliament of greater transparency and has established an action plan by which this goal might be reached. A more democratic Europe, the SP argues, should begin with a more transparent Europe.

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