Council taken to court over opaque workings of trade committee

WWF has taken the EU Council of Ministers to court after it was repeatedly denied access to working documents of its influential 133 Committee on external trade.

The World Wide Fund (WWF) has taken the Council of Ministers
to the European Court of Justice over allegations that its
influential 133 Committee on external trade has wrongly withheld
documents requested by the organisation.

The legal challenge has been filed before the European Court of
First Instance and covers the lack of transparency surrounding the
Committee's workings.

The NGO was refused access to Council working documents related
to the EU's trade policy after the failure of the WTO summit in
Cancun last year, including minutes, resolutions and

In a

noteexplaining its reason for
refusing access, the Council stated that "releasing the document in
question would seriously harm the EU's international, economic
relations with third countries" and could therefore "thwart the
EU's commercial interests". The note further explained that there
are simply no minutes of the 133 Committee meetings and that any
progress made is typically reflected in subsequent reports, "if
there exist any".

But WWF argues that the right of access applies to documents
held and produced by the Article 133 Committee, as it does for any
other European Community institution.

The court action was welcomed by the Green NGO Friends of the
Earth, who says it recently asked the Council to provide the legal
documents relating to the 133 Committee's set up, remit, scope,
terms of reference, powers, and responsibilities. The reply stated:
"Unfortunately, we have not been able to find in our archives any
such legislative act or decision". A similar answer came when the
FoE asked for documents setting out the membership of the


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