According to Article 15(3) TFEU shall
“any citizen of the Union, and any natural or legal person residing or having its office in a Member State, […] have a right of access to documents of the Union’s institutions, bodies, offices and agencies, whatever their medium […]”.
The EU is a signatory, meaning that is must also implement the Aarhus Convention. It has done so in the form of Regulation 1367/2006 (the Aarhus Regulation). Title II of the Aarhus Regulation concerns access to environmental information and Article 3 declares the general Regulation 1049/2001 on access to information held by the EU institutions, applicable. It must be assumed that Regulation 1049/2001 needs to be interpreted in conformity with the Aarhus Convention if applied with respect to ‘environmental information’ (in view of the Slovak Bears case).
The Aarhus Regulation contains additional provisions on access to environmental information.
E.g. Article 6(I) of the Aarhus Regulation ensures that information on emissions into the environment shall always be disclosed. Interestingly, the duty to always disclose emissions-related information also applies to intellectual property related information, whereas for environmental information held by the Member States a similar duty does not apply.
The EU is also obliged to set up registers and to disseminate environmental information.
Member States are not allowed to pass on the complete costs of complying with a request for information, but the EU is allowed to do this for copies of more than 20 pages. According to the regulation, these charges should “not exceed the real cost of producing and sending the copies”. However, the Aarhus Convention (Article 4(8)) only allows to charge a reasonable amount. Concerning the review of decisions refusing access to information, Articles 7 and 8 of Regulation 1049/2001 provide for a 2 stage administrative procedure and access to the European Ombudsman or a Court.
Developed by the Academy of European Law (ERA)