On May 9, 2019, the German Federal Administrative Court (“FAC”) ruled that access to the preparatory notes (so-called “opinions”) of the rapporteurs of the FCO’s decision divisions under the German Freedom of Information Act is restricted, because public access to the rapporteurs’ opinions would jeopardize the decision divisions’ deliberation process. The FAC thus ultimately confirmed the FCO’s denial of a journalist association’s access request to information on one of the FCO’s merger assessments, including access to the rapporteur’s opinions.
While the German Freedom of Information Act, in principle, confers to the public a right to gain access to official documents, this right is excluded if a public disclosure would affect an authority’s internal deliberation process. The FAC emphasized that the FCO’s decision divisions decide as collegial bodies. If opinions that only reflect a single members’ opinion were made public, and could be compared against the FCO’s later decision, the open exchange of views and discussions inside the decision division could be impaired. Therefore, access to the opinions could not be granted.