The article undertakes the issue of lawful exceptions to the right of public access to EU documents under Article 4 of Regulation 1049/2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents. The author analyses the jurisprudence of the General Court and the Court of Justice as regards the interpretation of these exceptions. The article covers obligatory as well as facultative exceptions in public or private interest, exception connected with the protection of the decision-making processes in the EU institutions and the issue of Member States’ documents, which are in possession of EU institutions. The author argues that there have been so far important differences in jurisprudence of the General Court and the Court of Justice in a number of important issues, such as the balance between the public access to documents and respect of privacy. The approach of the EU courts in also highlighted in respect of Member States’ documents – the author draws a conclusion that when the documents drawn by the Member States are transmitted to the UE institutions, the public access to these documents does no longer belong to the national law but to the EU law. In particular, eventual denial to access such documents must be based on exceptions from Article 4 of the Regulation 1049/2001, and not on national law. This results in extending the scope of application of the EU rules on public access to documents.