The Administrative Court found that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration failed to conduct harmfulness test of disclosure of information contained in the reports of experts of the European Commission and that the Ministry did not clearly explain the rationale behind the decision to classify these reports as confidential.
Scraps of information available at the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration (MFAEI) on the conducted expert missions were not sufficient to provide an adequate answer to the question: What do reports of EU expert missions conclude about the results of work of competent authorities in key areas for achieving progress towards the rule of law? Due to that fact, in June 2015, Institute Alternative (IA) submitted the request for free access to information seeking seven reports compiled within expert missions of the European Commission to the relevant ministry.
The reports we sought to gain insight into relate to the areas of rule of law, conflict of interest, money laundering and terrorist financing, efficiency of the judiciary, and fight against corruption and organized crime.
The Ministry informed us that the requested documents are classified and under the designation “restricted”. Considering that in this way participation of non-state actors in policy making and monitoring of their implementation is being significantly limited, we asked publicly: What is being hidden in the documents of EU experts which makes them “restricted”? We filed a lawsuit against such decision stating that the Ministry violated key provisions of the Law on Free Access to Information, the Law on Data Confidentiality, and the Law on Administrative Procedure.
The Administrative Court stated in its decision that the document under which the reports were classified and put under the designation “restricted” is not indicated in the decision of the Ministry. This means that it is not possible to firmly conclude whether the requested reports are indeed classified as confidential in accordance with the law. In addition, the Administrative Court stated that the Ministry did not conduct test of harmfulness of disclosure of information.
Court decisions like these are encouraging, as they pave the way towards transparency and openness of the work of public administration bodies. Institute Alternative once again underlines the importance of a transparent and participatory process of European integrations as to ensure adoption of the best legal solutions and their proper implementation.
We urge the Ministry to act in accordance with the court decision and provisions of the Law on Administrative Dispute and to issue a new decision based on our request for free access to information, this time thoroughly explaining the rationale behind their decision and taking into account the right of citizens to hold the public administration accountable for its work.
President of the Managing Board