European Federation of Journalists

European Union: Court’s reform a chance for open justice

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As the European Parliament debates the reform of the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joins ARTICLE 19 and 17 other civil society organisations call on MEPs to support amendments mandating the right of public access to Court’s documents and documents related to its judicial proceedings.

The current EU standards on access to information do not provide full transparency of the CJEU decision making, with the Decision concerning public access to documents held by the CJEU explicitly excluding access to court documents.

The CJEU is increasingly required to rule on matters of a constitutional nature and related to human rights. It should therefore be subject to open justice principles – guaranteeing transparency and public oversight of all judicial proceedings.

Mark Dempsey, Senior Advocacy Officer at ARTICLE 19, said:

“Access to court documents is essential for transparency and accountability – both are key in establishing and maintaining trust in the judiciary and wider democratic processes. It is crucial that the public are able to access and understand the reasoning behind judicial decisions, as well as the arguments put forward during proceedings. 

The media, civil society and other public watchdogs must also be able to fully scrutinise the functioning of the judiciary. Access to documents is the only way they can fulfil their public duty and hold CJEU accountable. 

Transparency has long been practised by other international and regional courts. It’s only right that the CJEU is subject to the same level of oversight. The European Parliament now has a unique opportunity to right this wrong and make open justice a reality in the EU.”

The organisations recommend that the amendment of Protocol No 3:

  • Includes provisions stipulating that the public can request access to the full range of documents about judicial proceedings held by the Court, including case files, as well as data such as statistics on cases filed, resolved and pending cases or, the court’s agenda;
  • Ensures that the scope of the right of access to documents held by the Court includes all documents deposited with the Registrar by the parties or by any third party in connection with an application;
  • Establishes that court documents are made public as a rule and that access requests can be denied only as per a limited and very narrowly-defined list of exceptions as prescribed in Regulation 1049/2001.