The Times’ law reports are unfortunatly not available online, but today they note a case decided by the Court of First Instance of the European Court of Justice that is interesting given the current interest in Freedom of Information legislation in the UK and Germany.

In IFAW Internationaler Tierschutz-Fonds gGmbH v Commission of the European Communities, the Court held that the European Union institutions have no discretion to release internal documents to third parties if the member state involved has requested that they remain secret.

The case arose when the International Fund for Animal Welfare, an environmentalist pressure group, requested correspondence between the German federal government and the City of Hamburg regarding the expansion of an Airbus plant into Mühlenberger Loch, a nature preserve that had been protected under an EU directive.

The German government intervened, asking the Commission not to reveal the correspondence. The IFAW, however, argued that the Commission did not have to honour this request. The Court disagreed.

In other words, the national governments may now veto citizens’ requests that the Commission release documents pertaining to them.