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2019. July 16.

Decision 3190/2019 (VII. 16.) AB

Decision number: IV/1722/2015.
Subject of the case:

Constitutional complaint aimed at establishing the lack of conformity with the Fundamental Law and annulling the judgement No. 13.Pf.20.706/2014/6 of the Szekszárd Regional Court of Appeal (disclosing data of public interest, Paks Nuclear Power Plant)

The Constitutional Court rejected the constitutional complaint against the judgement of the Szekszárd Regional Court delivered in the subject of refusing the disclosure of data of public interest. The petitioner turned with a request for the disclosure of data of public interest to the MVM Paks II. Atomerőmű Fejlesztő Zrt., asking for the disclosure of all impact studies connected to the extension of the Paks Nuclear Power Plant. The requested party refused to disclose the data by claiming that the requested data are preparatory data for the agreements to be concluded in the future between the Hungarian and the Russian party.  The Szekszárd District Court that acted in the case as the court of first instance accepted the requested party’s arguments and pointed out that the intergovernmental agreement between the Hungarian and the Russian governments on the extension of the Paks Nuclear Power Plant is not, in itself, a decision, as it shall only be completed with the subsequent implementation agreements. Until executing the above agreements, the requested data shall be classified as decision-preparatory ones, therefore, the refusal of their disclosure is justified. The Szekszárd Regional Court also held that the refusal of the disclosure had been necessary, as the publication of the requested information would significantly injure the negotiating positions of the Hungarian party during concluding the implementation agreements.  However, in the scope of proportionality, it concluded that the public interest in favour of the publicity of the environmental impact studies weighs more, therefore, it ordered the disclosure of the data. In the complaint, the petitioner referred to the injury of its right to access data of public interest. The petitioner argued, among others, that the intergovernmental agreement on the extension of the nuclear power plant qualifies, from the point of view of the freedom of information, as a decision, and that the court failed to properly examine the petitioner’s arguments. First the Constitutional Court pointed out that it is within the competence of the courts to decide in what form and in what depth they examine a document that contains data subject to the legal debate. This, however, should not lead to a completely formal examination without any material assessment. In the present case, it has been verified that the proceeding courts examined appropriately the content of the petitioner’s arguments. The Constitutional Court then concluded that in the present case the question is – in the context of the interpretation of an intergovernmental agreement promulgated with an Act of Parliament – what qualifies as a decision from the point of view of the freedom of information. It is also within the scope of competence of the court to decide about this. Taking the above into account, the Constitutional Court finally stated that the interpretation by the regional court complies with the provisions of the Fundamental Law, as in a series negotiations affecting an important investment project in terms of national security and national strategy, like the extension of the Paks Nuclear Power Plant, the protection of the positions of the Hungarian negotiating party and the State of Hungary may render necessary the restriction of the right to access data of public interests. The Constitutional Court also found that the interpretation of the law by the regional court had also been constitutional with regard to the environmental data.