Efforts to gain access to previously confidential files held by the European Commission seem to have been successful. Transparentsea and 25 other organisations petitioned the European Commission for access to all ex ante and post ante evaluations of EU fisheries agreements with developing countries. The request was initially refused by the DG-MARE on the grounds that releasing these documents ‘could threaten the commercial interests of the European fishing industry and it could harm the international relations of the EU’. Transparentsea, working with legal support from ClientEarth, contested this decision as it contradicted the Aarhus Convention.
A ‘confirmatory application’ was sent to Catherine Day, the Secretary General of the European Commission. This set out our objections to the position of DG-MARE and provided a comprehensive argument as to why these documents must be made public. Her response was unsatisfactory as it was suggested some of the documents could be shared, but parts of the documents may be deleted. Transparentsea and ClientEarth wrote back stating that the matter would be taken further and that a court application was being prepared. At this point the EC reviewed their decision and agreed to provide full access to 16 evaluations. Their response indicated that more will follow, although they still would like to review the contents of these evaluations.
The decision by the EC to grant full access to these 16 documents now means the veil of secrecy surrounding its evaluations of fisheries agreements has been lifted. We sincerely hope that the EC will follow through and provide unrestricted access to all of its evaluations. We also presume that given this change in policy, in the future all ex ante and ex post evaluations will be published by the EC.
You can view the 16 documents here, and we will immediately post new evaluations as and when they are sent to us.