Public access guide


Foundation decisions

  • Adoption of rules for implementing Regulation (EC) 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council on public access to documents, decision of the Administrative Board, March 2004
  • Rules for classification of documents of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, decision of the Director, April 2004
  • Code of conduct on good administrative behaviour, decision of the Administrative Board, March 2000

Foreword

This guide explains as simply as possible, in a question and answer format, how to apply for access to documents of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions.

Giving the public access to internal documents is seen by the Foundation as an important component of its broader information policy of giving as full a picture as possible of the Foundation’s activities.

The principles of the Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 on public access are:

  • General right of access to documents without justification;
  • Principle of harm: Refusal to disclose a document must be based on an analysis of the harm that would be caused by disclosure to one of the public or private interests expressly mentioned in the regulation;
  • Right of administrative appeal: All decisions may be the subject of an administrative appeal;
  • Balancing interests: The regulation states that the protection of certain interests must be balanced with the public interest in disclosure.

This document is in keeping with the spirit of openness and transparency which has marked the Foundation’s activities since its establishment in 1975 and it will serve a useful role in the practical application of information policy.

Willy Buschak - Acting Director (2003-2005)

Introduction

The Treaty on European Union emphasises the transparency of the decision-making process in the Union for the general public. Improving public access to Community information is therefore a key factor in promoting public interest in European affairs, improving understanding of the activities of the Union and fostering informed debate on European issues.

In May 2001, the European Parliament and Council adopted Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents. In June 2003, the Foundation’s founding regulation was amended to inter alia provide for the application of Regulation EC 1049/2001 to the Foundation.

In March 2004, the Foundation’s Administrative Board adopted rules for implementing Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001.

Access to published documents

How do I obtain a document published by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions?

If the document concerned has been published and is for sale, it can be obtained either from your usual bookshop or from one of the sales offices of the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2 rue Mercier, L-2985 Luxembourg.

Information about the Foundation’s publications is available from the European Documentation Centres (EDCs) in each Member State which hold paper copies of previous publications and the full text of publications since 1998 on CD ROM.

The Foundation also produces free publications describing its work, objectives and activities, such as the Four-year rolling programme and Annual report. These may be obtained free of charge either directly from the Foundation (all requests to the Information Section information@eurofound.europa.eu), from Commission Representations in the Member States, from Commission Delegations in non-Member States or from the Euro Info-points.

The Foundation’s website also includes a large number of free publications in PDF or HTML format which may be downloaded and printed directly. If you do not have access to the internet and would like to obtain a copy of one of the Foundation’s free publications, you can send a request in writing, to the Information Centre, European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Wyattville Rd, Loughlinstown, Dublin 18, Fax (00353 1) 2826456 or email Jan.Vandamme@eurofound.europa.eu.

A complete listing of Foundation publications, both priced and free, may be found on the Foundation’s website.

Can I receive documents electronically?

In many cases, yes. Many publications produced by the Foundation may be downloaded free of charge in PDF or HTML format on the Foundation’s website.

Access to unpublished documents

Who can request a document?

Anyone may request a document regardless of his or her personal or professional status, and without having to give reasons for the request.

Regulation EC 1049/2001 states that ‘Any citizen of the Union, and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State, has a right of access to documents of the institutions, subject to the principles, conditions and limits defined in the regulation’.

What types of document can be asked for?

Internal Foundation documents may be requested. An internal document is a document which either has not been finalised or is not intended for publication, for example:

  • Preparatory documents on Foundation decisions and policy initiatives;
  • Explanatory documents or other kinds of information such as statistics, memoranda or studies, minutes of meetings, which form the background to Foundation decisions and policy measures;
  • Information relating to the evaluation and awarding of tenders.

The general principle of widest possible access to documents produced by the Foundation is subject to certain exceptions which are required to protect various interests. Access to a document will not be granted where its release would be likely to harm the right to privacy of individuals and third parties supplying information to the Foundation. However, each public access request will be considered on an individual basis.

The regulation states that documents shall as far as possible be available in electronic form or through a register.

To whom should the request be addressed?

Requests should be addressed to the Head of Administration, European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, Wyattville Road, Loughlinstown, Dublin 18.

How should the request be made?

Access to documents must be requested in writing, i.e. by mail, fax or e-mail (publicaccess@eurofound.europa.eu). Please indicate that the request is being made in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001. When making the request, you should be as precise as possible about what you want and give as much information as you can to help in identifying the document or documents requested. If necessary, the Foundation will ask for further details.

What language should the request be made in?

The request can be made in any of the 20 official Community languages. Documents will be supplied in the format and the language version in which it is available. Documents will be supplied in other languages only when that language version is already available or can reasonably be supplied.

How are the requests dealt with?

The Foundation shall reply within fifteen working days from the date when a request is registered. You will be informed if the Foundation is unable to give a final reply within that time, for example, due to the volume of documents requested.

How will I receive the document?

It will be made available in one of two ways: either a copy will be sent to you or you will be offered an appointment to come and view it at the Foundation.

How much does it cost to obtain a document?

Documents will be supplied free of charge. However for documents of more than 20 pages, there may be a charge of EUR 0.40 per sheet to cover photocopying costs.

Can I be refused access to a document, and if so, why?

The Foundation favours as wide an access as possible to its internal documents. However, there are inevitably some documents which may have to be withheld in order to protect specific public and private interests or to ensure that the Foundation’s work is not disrupted. Exceptions to the right of access are set out in Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001.

  • Protection of the public interest (where documents concern legal proceedings, inspections and enquiries);
  • Protection of the individual and of privacy;
  • Protection of commercial and industrial secrecy;
  • Protection of confidentiality if it has been requested by a supplier of information;
  • Protection of the confidentiality of the Foundation’s internal deliberations.

In practice, what kinds of documents may be withheld?

Bearing in mind that no exemption is applied automatically and that each individual request will be looked at carefully, access might still be refused if a document:

  • Relates to the personnel records of Foundation staff (recruitment, promotion or medical files);
  • Contains commercially sensitive information about a company or individual supplied to the Foundation in confidence;
  • Relates to decision-making processes (e.g. minutes of internal meetings) where release of a document may be subject to a period of embargo in order to allow the Foundation ‘space to think’.

Will the Foundation give access to a document produced by others?

Yes. Documents from third parties, received and kept by the Foundation, are also accessible. ‘Third party’ means any natural or legal person, or any entity outside the Foundation including the Member States, other Community or non-Community institutions and bodies and third countries.

What can I do if my request for documents is turned down?

If you wish the Foundation to review its decision not to give access to a document, you should send a written request to the Executive Director of the Foundation (see the address below) within 15 working days of your being notified.

The Foundation then has 15 working days within which to change or confirm its decision. If the refusal is confirmed, you will be given details of how to pursue the appeal further.

Can I sell the documents that I have obtained from the Foundation?

No. You are not entitled to reproduce or publish them, for commercial purposes, without the Foundation’s prior authorisation.

Further information may be obtained from

Head of Administration
European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions
Wyattville Rd
Loughlinstown
Dublin
D18 KP65
IRELAND
E-mail: publicaccess@eurofound.europa.eu