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European briefing

The latest European Court of Justice ruling on access to information is unrealistic, says Paul Stanley

5 August 2008

In Joined Cases C-39/05 P and C-52/05 P, Turco (Grand Chamber, 1 July 2008), the ECJ has allowed an appeal from a judgment of the CFI in relation to freedom of information. In doing so, it has very significantly reduced the protection available for legal advice given to Community institutions.

Article 255 EC provides a treaty-based right to freedom of information, subject to conditions established by legislation. The relevant legislation, Regulation 1049/2001, defines various exceptions. It includes a rule that access is to be refused ‘where disclosure would undermine the protection of . . . legal advice . . . unless there is an overriding public interest in disclosure’ (Art.4(2)). The question in Turco was how that exception should be applied.

Mr Turco sought disclosure of, among other documents, an opinion prepared by the Council’s legal service on a legislative proposal. That request was refused; the Council was only prepared to disclose an introductory part of ...

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