Case summary

Deciding Body
District Court, Middelburg; Council of State
Rechtbank Middelburg; Raad van State
Netherlands
National case details
Date of decision: 01.08.12
Registration ID: (S) 201108135/1/A3; (M) 201110165/1/A3
Instance: Appellate on fact and law
Case status: Final
Area of law
Data protection
Migration and asylum


Other
Safeguards for access to justice
Art. 41 CFREU, The right of every person to have access to his or her file,...
Preliminary ruling
Judgement of the CJEU (Third Chamber), 17 July 2014, Case C-141/12 Ys v Minister voor Immigratie, Integratie en Asiel, And Minister voor Immigratie, Integratie en Asiel, Case C-372/12 Minister voor Immigratie, Integratie en Asiel, And Minister voor Immigratie, Integratie en Asiel v M,S,

Life-cycle diagram

  1. 15 March 2012

    Middelburg Tribunal, request preliminary ruling (YS)

  2. 01 August 2012

    Council of State, request preliminary ruling (M,S)

  3. 17 July 2014

    CJEU Joint Cases C-141/12 and C-372/12 (YS, M, S)

  4. 24 December 2014

    Council of State, follow up (M)

  5. 24 December 2014

    Council of State, follow up (S)

Identification of the case

National law sources
  • Articles 1, 35 and 43 respectively of the Law on the Protection of Personal Data (Wet bescherming persoonsgegevens, ‘the Wbp’). (Transposition of Directive 95/46 art 2, 12, 13)
EU law sources
  • Articles 2, 12 and 13 of Directive 95/46/EC

Summary of the case

Facts of the case

Case C-141/1 (YS):

On 13 January 2009, YS submitted an application for a residence permit for a fixed period under asylum law. The application was rejected. YS asked for the minute relating to the decision to be communicated to him and was refused. However, the decision did give a summary of the data contained in the minute, the origin of those data and the bodies to which the data had been disclosed. YS lodged an objection against the refusal to communicate the minute, which itself was rejected. YS then brought an action against that rejection decision before the Rechtbank Middelburg (District Court, Middelburg), on the ground that he could not lawfully be refused access to that minute.

In those circumstances, the Rechtbank Middelburg decided to stay the proceedings and to refer to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling.

 

Case C-372/12: 

The dispute concerning M: 

The Minister granted M a residence permit for a fixed period as asylum seeker. M, on the basis of Article 35 of the Wbp, requested access to the minute relating to that decision. The Minister refused M access to the minute. On the basis of Article 43(e) of the Wbp. The objection to that refusal having been rejected M brought an action against that decision before the Rechtbank Middelburg. By decision of 16 June 2011, that court took the view that the interest relied on by the Minister to refuse access to the minute did not amount to an interest protected by Article 43(e) of the Wbp, and annulled the Minister’s decision.

The dispute concerning S: 

The Minister granted S an ordinary residence permit for a fixed period on the ground of ‘dramatic circumstances’. S requested the minute relating to that decision. The request was rejected. The Rechtbank Amsterdam (District Court, Amsterdam) declared well-founded the action brought by S against the decision and annulled that decision. The Minister decided to appeal to the Raad van State (Council of State) both in the dispute concerning M and in that concerning S. The Raad van State decided to join the cases concerning M and S, to stay the proceedings and to refer to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling.

Type of enforcement
  • Administrative judicial enforcement
Measures, actions, remedies claimed/applied

Ensure the right of the consumer to a complete summary of his/her personal data contained in legal analyses conducted by national authorities;

Dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claim that a consumer may rely on Article 41 of the Charter against national authorities;

Preliminary questions

‘1. Should the second indent of Article 12(a) of [Directive 95/46] be interpreted to mean that there is a right to a copy of documents in which personal data have been processed, or is it sufficient if a full summary, in an intelligible form, of the personal data that have undergone processing in the documents concerned is provided?

2. Should the words “right of access” in Article 8(2) of [the Charter] be interpreted to mean that there is a right to a copy of documents in which personal data have been processed, or is it sufficient if there is provision of a full summary, in an intelligible form, of the personal data that have undergone processing in the documents concerned within the meaning of the second indent of Article 12(a) of [Directive 95/46]?

3. Is Article 41(2)(b) of [the Charter] also addressed to the Member States of the European Union in so far as they are implementing EU law within the meaning of Article 51(1) of that Charter?

4. Does the consequence that, as a result of the granting of access to “minutes”, the reasons why a particular decision is proposed are no longer recorded therein, which is not in the interests of the internal undisturbed exchange of views within the public authority concerned and of orderly decision-making, constitute a legitimate interest of confidentiality within the meaning of Article 41(2)(b) of [the Charter]?

5. Can a legal analysis, as set out in a “minute”, be regarded as personal data within the meaning of Article 2(a) of [Directive 95/46]? 6. Does the protection of the rights and freedoms of others, within the meaning of Article 13(1)(g) of [Directive 95/46] …, also cover the interest in an internal undisturbed exchange of views within the public authority concerned? If the answer to that is in the negative, can that interest then be covered by Article 13(1)(d) or (f) of that directive?’

Reasoning (legal principles applied)

With regard to the first and second question the Court started by analyzing the definition of “personal data” for the purposes of Article 2(a) of Directive 95/46, which consists of ‘any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person’. Due to the implications of Article 2(a) the Court has established that, whereas the data contained in the legal analysis classify as ‘personal data’ for the purposes of the Directive, the legal analysis itself does not.

Concerning the third and fifth question, the court took in consideration the obligations imposed on the member states by article 8(2) CFREU and Article 12(a) of Directive 95/46. It concludes in agreement with the position of the Netherlands that the data subject cannot derive from either of those provisions the right to obtain a copy of the document or the original file in which his/hers personal data appear. For that right to be complied with, it is sufficient that the applicant be in possession of a full summary of those data in an intelligible form, that is to say a form which allows that applicant to become aware of those data and to check that they are accurate and processed in compliance with that directive, so that he may, where relevant, exercise the rights conferred on him by that directive.

With regard to the fourth question in Case C-141/12 and the third and fourth questions in Case C-372/12, concerning Article 41 of the Charter, the Court pointed out how the provision is clearly addressed not to the Member States but solely to the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the European Union. Therefore the applicant for a residence permit cannot rely on that provision against the national authorities.

Implementation of preliminary ruling

The referring court determined that the Minister, in both cases, did not comply with the obligations arising from Article 35, paragraph two, of the Wbp, due to the summary made available to the plaintiff not being sufficiently “complete and inteligible”, as determined by 8(2) CFREU and Article 12(a) of Directive 95/46.

Role of the Charter and role of the general principles on enforcement

Safeguards for access to justice
  • Explicit reference to Art. 41 CFREU (right to good administration)
  • The right of every person to have access to his or her file, while respecting the legitimate interests of confidentiality and of professional and business secrecy
Relevance of CFREU and ECHR articles or related rights

Article 8(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union was taken into consideration when discussing the right of access of an individual to all personal data being processed by the national administrative authorities. Article 8(2) CFREU, together with art 12(a) Directive 95/46 impose on the member state an obligation of disclosing at least a complete and intelligible overview of which personal data of the claimant are being processed. Art 8(2): “[...] Everyone has the right of access to data which has been collected concerning him or her, and the right to have it rectified.[…]”

Article 41(2)b of the Charter of Fundamental Rights was taken into account when determining whether the applicant may rely on that provision against national authorities. The Court specified that the provision is clearly addressed not to the Member States but solely to the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the European Union.

Elements of judicial dialogue

Vertical dialogue type
  • Direct dialogue between CJEU and National court (preliminary reference)
Dialogue techniques

Preliminary reference

Purposes of using judicial dialogue

Determine the correct interpretation and application of national legislation implementing Directive 95/46/EC

Expected effects of judicial dialogue

Changes on subsequent decision-making policies of the Ministry of Justice and Security

Additional notes on the decision

Impact on national case law

The case has had an impact on at least two following cases of the Council of State of 2015:

- 201206916/1/A3 (ECLI:NL:RVS:2015:319)

- 201106803/1/A3 (ECLI:NL:RVS:2015:659)

External links

Case author

Comparative, European and International Legal Studies Student Silvia Ciacchi, University of Trento

Published by Silvia Ciacchi on 28 October 2019

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