Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance

Besselink v Council of the European Union (T-331/11)

.. and other access-to-information cases

05Nov2013 13:00 - 14:00


This ACELG meeting offers a unique opportunity to discuss case T-331/11 with the applicant Leonard Besselink and his lawyer Onno Brouwer from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. While Leonard Besselink will present his motives for bringing the case to court, Onno Brouwer will put it into the context of other access-to-information cases that he has been involved in.

The case

In January 2011, Leonard Besselink requested access to documents relating to the EU’s accession to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). In these documents, the Council discussed the strategic and substantive instructions to the Commission, which negotiated the accession on the EU’s behalf. The Council refused access to the documents on the basis of Article 4(1) of Regulation 1049/2001 according to which access must be refused where disclosure would undermine the public interest with regard to international relations.

Besselink, represented before the General Court by advocate Onno Brouwer, contested the Council’s reading, arguing inter alia that the accession was of a constitutional nature, which made the disclosure of this document of exceptional societal relevance. In its judgment delivered on 12 September, the Court concluded that the procedural requirements under the regulation had not been correctly applied to part of the requested documents.

The speakers

Leonard Besselink is Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Amsterdam. Until 2012, he was Professor of Constitutional Law at Utrecht University. He holds a doctorate in social and political sciences of the European University Institute, Florence, Italy, and is a member of the Royal Dutch Society of Sciences and Humanities.

Onno Brouwer is a partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, where he is local practice group leader for the Amsterdam antitrust, competition and trade group. He has acted on complex EU litigation since 1983 and is widely recognised as a leading litigator before the EU and Dutch Courts.


Attendance is free of charge. For organizational reasons, please sign up for the meeting by sending an email to

Published by  ACELG