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Transparency of landmark judgements: European Parliament wants to introduce public access to EU court documents

European Parliament Freedom, democracy and transparency Press releases

The EU Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) today unanimously voted in favour of giving the public, civil society and the media a right of access to documents, positions and arguments exchanged in court proceedings, subject to some exceptions. The proposal was originally made by MEPs René Repasi (S&D group) and Patrick Breyer (Pirate Party, Greens/EFA group). Whether the Parliament‘s amendment will become part of the reform of the Statute of the European Court of Justice will now be decided in the upcoming trilogue negotiations with the EU Council and the EU Commission.

Breyer explains: “Today‘s unanimous vote shows how great the need for a more transparent judiciary is. Regarding landmark judgements with far-reaching consequences, the public should have a right to know and discuss the positions voiced by our governments and institutions. In a democracy where freedom of the press reigns, it must be possible to hold the powerful accountable. At a time when the EU and its Court of Justice are in a crisis of confidence, transparency builds trust.

The introduction of a right of access to information complements the easening of workload proposed by the Court of Justice and does not delay it. Our proposal fully respects the Court‘s case law on the limits of access to information, for example to protect ongoing proceedings.”

18 civil society organisations have recently advocated for a right of access to information and an open judiciary. A joint statement by Article19, the European Federation of Journalists EFJ, Corporate Europe Observatory, Access Info Europe and others says: “Access to judicial documents is essential for transparency and accountability – both of which are crucial for building and maintaining trust in the judiciary and democratic processes in general. It is crucial that the public is able to see and understand the reasons for judicial decisions as well as the arguments put forward during the proceedings.”


The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has always granted public access to documents submitted to the Court. Regarding the Luxemburg EU Court of Justice, however, insights can so far only be obtained indirectly by requesting the Commission to grant access to copies of court documents it holds, with the Commission being very reluctant to do so.

The European Court of Justice decides on the interpretation and validity of European law, including its compatibility with fundamental rights. Landmark court rulings have concerned, for example, data retention, upload filters, the right to be forgotten or the purchase of government bonds by the European Central Bank (“euro bailout”).