Right of access to documents: what does it mean?
European citizens and any other natural or legal person residing or having a registered office in a Member State have, subject to certain principles, conditions and limits, a right of access to documents produced or held by Eurojust, as well as all EU institutions, bodies, offices and agencies.
These principles are:
- General, unconditional right of access for everyone; applicants do not need to justify their requests.
- Right of access applies to any document that relates to policies, activities and decisions falling within the responsibility of Eurojust, and includes all publication formats and media.
- Access to Eurojust documents can only be refused in exceptional circumstances (for more information, see below), and any refusal of access must be fully justified in accordance with Article 4 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and the Council which applies to documents held by Eurojust by virtue of Article 74(1) of the Eurojust Regulation. Classified documents are subject to special conditions.
- Exceptions may only be made after evaluation on a case-by-case basis.
- Eurojust must offer the widest possible access to documents. The possibility of partial access must also be considered.
How do I request access?
Direct access to documents via the Eurojust Public Register
Eurojust has a Public Register that can be used to access documents, containing press releases and documents related to public tenders and recruitment. The Document library section of this website also lists the most important Eurojust documents (legal framework, annual reports, etc.) in an accessible format and with translations if available.
Access by individual application
If a document drawn up or held by Eurojust has not been published or cannot be downloaded from the Public Register, an individual can ask Eurojust for access directly.
Who can apply?
Any citizen of the European Union and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State can make a request.
How do I make an application?
You can request access to a document in writing by e-mail, post or fax, addressing your application to the Head of the Legal Affairs Unit at Eurojust, or by completing the online contact form.
How long does an application take?
The procedure can take up to 15 working days from registration. This deadline can be extended by a further 15 working days in exceptional circumstances.
When will access be granted; when will it be refused?
The principle is that the widest possible access to all documents held by Eurojust should be granted, with refusal only occurring in exceptional circumstances (for more information, consult Article 4 of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001). If an exception is justified, it will be examined to see whether it applies to the whole document or whether partial access to a document can be granted.
What if my request for access to documents is refused or partially refused?
In this scenario, it may be possible to make a ‘confirmatory’ application (i.e. a second request) to Eurojust. Processing this can also take up to 15 working days, and, in exceptional cases, up to 30 working days.
For further details on the principles, conditions and limitations of right of access, please refer to Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001. Under Article 74(2) of the Eurojust Regulation, the Executive Board shall, within six months of the date of its first meeting, prepare the detailed rules for applying Regulation (EC) 1049/2001 for adoption by the College.
Statistics and other information on requests for public access to Eurojust documents are available in Eurojust’s Annual Reports and in the section below.
Since 2015, Eurojust Annual Reports include a hyperlink to the current webpage containing information on requests for public access to documents, including the number of cases in which Eurojust refused access and the reasons for refusal.
Public access to Eurojust documents - Number of requests 2019
The number of requests for public access to Eurojust documents decreased slightly in 2019, with a total of 16 requests compared to 20 in 2018. In addition, Eurojust received eight consultation requests in accordance with Article 4(4) of Regulation 1049/2001, as a third-party author of the requested document. This represents an increase compared to the two consultation requests received in 2018. No confirmatory application was received in 2019.
Of the 16 requests received, 14 concerned non-case related documents and two concerned case related documents. The requests related to 27 documents in total in the non-case related domain.
Regarding this last category, the documents requested were assessed for disclosure against the exceptions laid down in the Eurojust Decision on rules regarding public access to documents (hereinafter: “Eurojust Decision”):
Access to 17 documents was granted in full.
Three documents were partially disclosed, after an assessment against the exceptions of the Eurojust Decision.
- In one document the exception laid down in Article 4(2) second indent applied to it (protection of court proceedings and legal advice).
- Access to a second document was not possible because of the exception laid down in Article 4(1) (a) fifth indent (protection of the public interest as regards national investigations and prosecutions in which Eurojust assists).
- A third document was subject to the exceptions laid down in Article 4(1) (a) fifth indent and Article 4(2) second and third indent (protection of investigations).
In four cases, full access was refused.
- In one case the exceptions laid down both in Article 4(1) (a) fifth and sixth indents of the Eurojust Decision applied (public interest protection and fulfilment of Eurojust’s tasks in reinforcing the fight against serious crime) and Article 4(2) second indent.
- Access to two further documents was refused on the basis of the exceptions laid down in Article 4(1) (a) fifth indent; and on the basis of Article 4(2) second indent.
- Finally, access to the fourth document was refused on the basis of the exception laid down in Article 4(3) (disclosure would undermine Eurojust’s decision-making process).
In three cases, Eurojust did not hold the requested documents.
Finally, Eurojust continued to update the Public Register of documents. The growing list of documents made directly available to the public via the Public Register makes it easier for citizens to access documents held by Eurojust without the need to make a formal access to documents request, and further enhances transparency and availability of information about Eurojust’s activities.
For information on requests for public access to Eurojust documents prior to 2015, please see the relevant Annual Report.