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Court orders EU to open up



The campaign for more openness in European decision-making won a victory in the European Court of Justice yesterday when judges ruled that the Guardian newspaper was wrongly denied access to important minutes.

The Guardian had accused the Council of Ministers of abusing the EU's freedom-of-information policy by refusing to release documents which might reveal disagreements between member states.

John Carvel, a correspondent for the paper, complained he had applied for minutes of meetings of justice and farm ministers, but the Council had refused to hand them over.

Yesterday, the Luxembourg court ruled that the decision should be annulled. Freedom of information campaigners welcomed the judgment, saying it ought to put pressure on the Council of Ministers, the most powerful and secretive of the EU's institutions, to follow principles in force in most EU member states.

The ruling was welcomed in the European Parliament, which accused the Council of taking decisions behind closed doors without allowing the parliament a chance to scrutinise the reasons. Pauline Green, leader of the Socialist group, said she would demanding that the Council make a statement on the ruling before the European Parliament next week: "It's the only law-making body in the whole of the democratic works that is proceeding like that." Denmark and the Netherlands, which have criticised the secrecy of EU decision making, welcomed the ruling.