The case clarified what rights do asylum-seekers have with respect to the data protection law. However, the case could also have broader relevance for any case which involves access to documents in the context of administrative procedures.
The Court also elaborated on the right to good administration, which it refers to as general principle of EU law.
The joined cases concerned three third country nationals who applied for lawful residence in the Netherlands and sought access under the Data Protection Directive 95/46 to an official administrative document (referred to as minute) in relation to the decisions on their applications. The document in questioned contained information about the relevant case officer of the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service, personal data of the applicant, applicable legal provisions and a legal analysis.
Y.S. requested a copy of the document following the refusal of his application for a residence permit under asylum law. Y.S. challenged the refusal of the Minister to disclose a copy of the document in the Dutch courts which referred five questions to the CJEU.
M and S were both granted residency but were not given reasons. The refusal of their requests for access to the relevant document was annulled by two Dutch courts. The Minister appealed against this which also led to a number of questions being referred to the CJEU.
The CJEU was asked, inter alia the following questions related to the Charter:
The Court found that only some data contained in the minute can be considered “personal data” within the meaning of Directive 95/46. For example, the legal analysis contained within the minute does not itself meet this definition. Consequently, the right of access which the applicant may rely on under Article 8(2) of the Charter relates solely to those data that meet the definition of “personal data” provided in the directive.
The CJEU further held that, in order to comply with the Article 8 Charter, the competent authority is not required to provide the applicant with a copy of the minute - it suffices to provide him with a full summary of the personal data concerning him in an intelligible form.
The CJEU found that Article 41(2) (b) of the Charter could not be relied on by applicants for a residence permit against the national authorities as it is addressed not to the Member States but solely to the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the European Union.
The Court confirmed that the right to good administration, enshrined in Article 41, reflects a general principle of EU law but noted that the referring courts did not seek and interpretation of this general principle.