EU Court Decision on NGO Monitor Case Highlights EU's Secrecy
On November 27, 2012, the European Court of Justice ruled on an NGO Monitor
petition concerning the EU's lack of transparency in its NGO funding
practices. The court found that the EU did not provide documents requested
by NGO Monitor in a timely fashion, and that this "must be regarded as an
implicit decision to refuse access." However, it also upheld the denial of
access, essentially permitting the EU to hide its NGO decision making from
NGO Monitor's case was covered this week by the JTA (also appeared in
Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel) and in Ha'aretz (and in Hebrew) and
Algemeiner. As a result, the issues related to the EU's secret and massive
NGO funding, and the sharp contradiction between declared democratic
principles and practice, have been emphasized, which will accelerate policy
The European Union funnels tens of millions of taxpayer euros to political
advocacy NGOs every year. Many of these groups engage in campaigns and
activities that are entirely inconsistent with declared European foreign
policy; the activities include BDS (boycotts, divestment, sanctions), "one
state" proposals, anti-normalization with Israel campaigns, and abusing the
courts through frivolous "war crimes" cases. Not only do these activities
contradict European policies, but they promote conflict and violence.
Moreover, the available evidence suggests that the EU has been unethically
seeking to manipulate Israeli democracy by funding political advocacy NGOs
such as Adalah, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD),
Mossawa, Machsom Watch, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I), and
Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI). Due to EU secrecy, the
only available non-censored document is a leaked protocol from a meeting on
NGO funding from 1999. This shows an explicit and concerted plan to support
NGOs in an effort to manipulate Israeli voting patterns.
For the past decade, NGO Monitor has attempted to systematically track this
funding, to allow European taxpayers, officials, Israelis, and Palestinians
to independently evaluate and respond. As part of that process, in 2008, NGO
Monitor submitted a detailed request to the EU, asking for documents related
to this funding (under the EU's Freedom of Information Law - FOI). After
delaying compliance with the law for more than six months, the EU provided
NGO Monitor with documents that were heavily redacted and whited
out,essentiallycovering up all relevant information under the purported
rationale of national security and proprietary interests.
Under the procedure mandated by the FOI law, NGO Monitor, represented by
Asserson Law Offices, next turned to the European Court of Justice seeking
compliance. The NGO Monitor petition noted that the EU was blocking
independent evaluation of its NGO funding decisions, and preventing the
public from knowing whether its practices are consistent with due process of
In its response to the court, the European Commission admitted that
officials had censored the meaningful details, including "the conclusions of
the monitoring" and "the conclusions of the audit[s]," as well as
"additional remarks" made by evaluators. The court also found that the EU
did not provide the documents in a timely fashion, and that this 'must be
regarded as an implicit decision to refuse access."
In direction contradiction, however, the court upheld the denial of access,
and issued a decision without taking evidence or conducting hearings on NGO
Monitor's petition, nor providing NGO Monitor an opportunity to appear
before the Court.
Although this decision allows the EU to continue to hide its NGO decision
making from the public, NGO Monitor will continue to demand that foreign
governments operate transparently in their NGO funding, and "name and shame"
those that insist on violating the very democracy and human rights norms
that they claim to promote.