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Accountability Through Transparency and the Role of the Court of Justice

Marios Costa

This paper assesses transparency, an integral part of accountability, through the access to documents rules. Transparency is viewed here as an ongoing process capable of securing, through a set of binding rules, open performance in the decision-making process. Seen from this perspective, access to documents is considered to be an essential accountability component, since without information on what basis decisions are being taken, and by whom, it is impossible for the various accountability forums to hold the actors to account. The paper reviews transparency and freedom of information in the European Union (EU) by taking a holistic approach to the past 20 years. The aim is to explore transparency by means of access to "government" information and to investigate a twofold question: How open can the Union's decision-making be and is it possible for citizens to participate in the decision-making process of institutions, bodies, offices and agencies? This paper concludes that accountability deficits in the field of access to documents have been filled, to a certain extent, by the EU Courts' imposition of boundaries on some of the broad derogations to the right. Nevertheless, this has come at the cost of introducing a set of general presumptions against access which effectively change the default position from the widest access to non-disclosure.

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