Public access to community documents: a fundamental human right?
Davis, Roy W.
There is a marked difference between the culture of open government in some Member States, particularly Sweden, and the culture of secrecy in Britain. Recent calls for a uniform interpretation of the law regarding public access to documents held by the Community Institutions seem to suggest that a Swedish-style right of access should be adopted at EU level, on the grounds that public access to government-held information is a fundamental human right. To date, however, it seems that insufficient arguments have been advanced in order to justify this particular claim. Notable constitutional lawyers remain sceptical, as do some Member State governments. Furthermore, in the absence of a convincing philosophical justification for the claim, a situation may be created in which certain people are said to enjoy a fundamental human right, not because they are human beings, but by virtue of their status as citizens or residents of an EU Member State. This appears to be counter-intuitive, if it is accepted that fundamental human rights should be enjoyed by all and should therefore be justified on the basis of universally-shared fundamental values. It therefore seems that further explanation of the importance of public access to documents is required, and further justification of the claim that this is, or should be regarded as, a fundamental human right.
access to documents; Sweden; U.K.; Amsterdam Treaty; transparency; fundamental/human rights; European citizenship; democracy; law
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