Page last updated at 08:37 GMT, Thursday, 13 September 2012 09:37 UK

Debate on access to documents

MEPs have backed an agreement that will ensure that the European Parliament gets better access to classified documents from the Council of Ministers.

The debate on 13 September 2012 focused on updates negotiated by the Constitutional Affairs Committee to an interinstitutional agreement, to take account of the greater powers accorded to MEPs following the 2009 Lisbon Treaty.

Under the treaty, there is a requirement for the council to keep the parliament "immediately and fully informed" in the field of international agreements.

MEPs will now have access to documents covering international treaties, such as on trade or human rights.

This new agreement does not extend to documents covered exclusively by EU foreign and security policy, an area in which the European Parliament has limited powers.

Finnish MEP Anneli Jäätteenmäki - a former prime minister - said she hoped that foreign policy documents would soon be covered by the agreement.

"This information can't just be reserved for an elite," she claimed.

However British Conservative MEP Ashley Fox said he welcomed the new agreement as it stood, saying it improved openness and transparency whilst still maintaining the "legitimate right of member states for confidentiality of certain documents".

The report was formally passed by 587 votes to 7 at the daily voting session later in the day.

Useful links:

Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work.

A disclaimer on the use of simultaneous interpretations, on the European Parliament's website.

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