The FFII requested European Parliament documents on ACTA. The Parliament’s Register answered.
In an email, the European Parliament Register denies access to the EU negotiators’ notes the Commission added in the course of the ACTA negotiations. These notes are important for interpreting ACTA. The FFII filed a confirmatory application.
The Register failed to inform us about the right to file a confirmatory application, while they are obliged to do this by law. This seems to be a structural problem with the Register.
On 18 July 2011, the Chairman of the Committee on International Trade requested the European Parliament Legal Service Jurisconsult an opinion on ACTA. The Register provided access to the request. See a separate post on this. As a follow up, we requested the opinion as well.
Furthermore, we heard of the existence of non public Coordinators’ meetings’ minutes on ACTA. The Register denies the existence of Coordinators’ meetings’ minutes. Coordinators play a special role in Committees, they have separate meetings. We asked for a clarification.
The Register maintains there are no such separate minutes. The Register also writes it did not send us a formal refusal, apparently forgetting it refused access to the EU negotiators’ notes the Commission added in the course of the ACTA negotiations.
Below the Register’s email, our confirmatory application and the Register’s reply. After that, we found some smoking guns.
Register’s email 28 July 2011:
Dear Mr Wessels,
Following your request of 8 July concerning several documents related to ACTA, we inform you of the following:
– Your points 1/2/3
Minutes of EP committee meetings are available on our webpage, please visit:
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/activities/committees/minutes.do?language=EN were you can select the different committees (INTA, JURI, AFCO, etc).
These minutes include in general a point called “Coordinators Decisions” or “Chair’s announcements” with the relevant decisions by the Coordinators. No separate minutes for the Coordinators meetings exist.
As for in camera committee meetings, no minutes are drafted in such cases.
– Your point 4
– Your point 5
The EP has not asked the European Court of Justice for an opinion on ACTA.
– Your point 6
As you know the Parliament was not party in the negotiations. It is up to the Commission to decide whether it will publish its negotiations’ notes.
The documents made public by the parties in the negotiations do not identify participants’ positions:
The negotiations were finalised in November 2010, and the negotiating parties are now fulfilling their internal ratification procedures. In the case of the European Union, the Agreement must be approved by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament.
Parliament has just received the referral:
Examination will start as soon as a rapporteur is appointed at the International Trade committee.
Information on the procedure stages will be available via the Legislative Observatory:
We hope this information is useful to you,
Directorate-General for the Presidency
Library and Document Management Directorate
Transperency – Public Access to Documents
Our confirmatory application 29 July 2011:
I would like to kindly thank you for your answer to my request of 8 July concerning several documents related to ACTA, A8818/MJC/en.
You pointed me to some publicly available documents and attached one document. I thank you for that.
You refused access to the other documents, without informing me of my right to make a confirmatory application in accordance with article 7 Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001. You should have informed me about that, same article.
I hereby make a confirmatory application for all the documents I did not receive, I ask the Parliament to reconsider its position. ACTA regards legislation, in the Union, legislation has to be made as open as possible. The Parliament can not go into stealth mode regarding legislation. It would be an assault on democracy.
Furthermore, I would like to ask you two clarifications.
In your email you write: “No separate minutes for the Coordinators meetings exist.” Could you clarify this sentence?
Article 192 Parliament Rules of Procedure gives the Coordinator’s Meetings an official role. How could this important role be performed without agendas and minutes?
The article “Communication Dynamics in a Coordinator’s Meeting at the European Parliament” mentions an agenda: “The Chair (…) provided an overview of the agenda (…).” At least agendas do exist.
Furthermore, a Google search for “european parliament coordinator’s meetings” does return some coordinator’s meetings minutes, for instance:
Coordinator’s Meetings minutes do exist.
In your email you write: “As for in camera committee meetings, no minutes are drafted in such cases.” Do you maintain this position?
The Register’s reply 5 August 2011:
Dear Mr Wessels,
In reply to your message we would like to point out the following:
The right to submit a confirmatory application only applies in the event of a total or partial refusal. We did not mention the possibility of a confirmatory application because we did not send you a formal refusal. We sent you the link where to find certain documents requested or we informed you that other documents did not exist.
As regards the clarification of your questions:
1. Minutes of coordinators’ meetings
Your interpretation of Article 192 of the Rules is not accurate. Coordinators have no decisional powers. The meetings of coordinators have the objective to prepare the decisions of a committee but may not act as substitutes for the committee. The committee may delegate to the coordinators the power to take certain decisions (excluding decisions concerning the adoption of reports, opinions or amendments) but only by an ex-ante decision of the committee.
In consequence, recommendations by the coordinators must be endorsed by the relevant committee. Therefore, as explained in our previous e-mail, a point is included in the agenda of the committee (“Coordinators Decisions” or “Chair’s Announcements”) for the adoption of coordinators’ recommendations. This point is then reflected in the minutes of the committee meeting and it constitutes at the same time the minutes of the coordinators. A good example of this is the one you sent us concerning the ENVI Committee. The results (not the minutes) of the Coordinators are included as annexe to the minutes of the committee meeting to indicate that they have been formally adopted by the members of the ENVI committee:
See point 19 on page 6 of the minutes
and page 34 (your document)
The ENVI committee has decided nevertheless to publish the coordinators’ results separately:
but this document has no official status in itself.
However, not all committees proceed in the same way as ENVI. In general, committees merely include the point (“Coordinators decisions”) in the minutes of the committee meetings and do not produce separate coordinators’ minutes. Committees have the flexibility to organize their work independently.
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+COMPARL+PE-462.904+01+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN see point 15
2. Minutes of in camera meetings.
We have checked with the secretariats of the committees which are of interest to you (AFCO, JURI, INTA). They have explained that they do not produce detailed minutes of in camera committee meetings. When a point on the agenda is treated in camera, along with other points treated publicly, the minutes include only the speakers or the decisions but no mention is made of the discussions relating to items under the confidential procedure, in accordance with Annex VIII.A.3 of the Rules. But again we can not confirm that all parliamentary committees proceed exactly the same way. They may decide on a case by case basis.
A good example of the above:
http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+COMPARL+PE-462.631+01+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN see point 31
Moreover, in point 9 you have a good example of coordinators’ decisions which have been included in the minutes of the committee meeting. We have undertaken all the necessary research (within the deadlines) to give you the exact information required. We would, however, like to point out that your blog is misleading.
Transparency – Public Access to Documents