Transparency in the European Union
Access Info is working towards a more transparent EU by promoting stronger rules for access to documents and ensuring that existing rules are properly applied. We provide training on how to request information from the EU, campaign for greater transparency and, when necessary, litigate to get access to information. We also manage www.AsktheEU.org, an online platform for making access to documents requests to the European Union.
European Union Regulation 1049/2001
Access Info and the European Union
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EU Ombudsman urged to review European Commission's insistence on postal addresses to register requests for documents
Madrid, 13 October 2014 – Access Info Europe is challenging the European Commission’s policy of demanding postal addresses as a precondition for registering requests for access to EU documents as part of a complaint being considered by the European Ombudsman.
Access Info Europe argues that Commission’s policy, adopted on 1 April 2014, of refusing to register requests without postal address interferes unnecessarily and disproportionately with citizens' ability to exercise their right of access to documents and is in breach of Regulation 1049/2001.
The issue of addresses was raised by the Commission as part of an exchange of views regarding the Commission’s refusal to register a request from an Access Info Europe intern because she did not give her surname, country, and “activity sector”, even though she stated that she was working for Access Info Europe, a legal entity based in the European Union working on human rights issues; she also stated she was a Swedish resident of Polish citizenship. The Commission nevertheless refused to register the request and Access Info Europe submitted its complaint to the European Ombudsman on 10 April 2014.
Previously Secret TTIP Negotiating Directives Published
Madrid, 9 October 2014 - Access Info Europe today welcomed the publication by the Council of the European Union of the negotiating directives for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), following a long battle by civil society and MEPs to obtain this key document, and the opening of an investigation by the European Ombudsman.
Access Info noted that rather ironically, the newly declassified document states at Article 41 that "Nothing in this Agreement should affect EU or Member State laws regarding public access to official documents."
Indeed, the directives require specific proactive transparency on any rules and measures which will impact on international trade and investment, which clearly goes for the future TTIP itself as well.
New Features Launched on Redesigned AsktheEU.org
Three New Transparency Campaigns Focus on the Demand for More Access to EU Documents
Madrid, 29 September 2014 – Access Info Europe has launched a new version of the request platform AsktheEU.org, which now includes special features to help civil society organisations campaign to get access to EU documents, in celebration of International Right to Know Day on 28 September.
The features include campaigns pages that civil society groups can use to highlight areas of lack of transparency and to advocate for access to particular EU documents related to issues they are working on.
Looking for Leadership on Transparency in Europe
Madrid, 28 September 2014 – On the occasion of International Right to Know Day, Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe, argues that the European Union should be taking a strong lead on transparency standards across the 28 country region of 500 million inhabitants.
With 751 new members of the European Parliament getting settled into their offices in Brussels, and with the new European Commission – the ministers of the Union – about to be appointed, civil society is demanding a strong transparency agenda in which the EU takes the lead and sets standards to be followed by all its 28 Member States.
In September 2014, the world reached the significant landmark of 100 access to information laws, with the adoption of a transparency law in Paraguay. The EU as the world’s only supra-national body also has an access law – the rather inelegantly named Regulation 1049/2001 on access to documents. This regulation ranks alongside the better national laws, positioned at around 25 from the top of the 100, so just in with the 25% top laws.
The quality of the law, however, is never the whole story. Sweden, with the world’s first access to information law, adopted in 1766 and so just shy of its 250th Birthday, ranks at position 41, but the country has a strong culture of transparency and all research shows very high and rapid response rates, both to Swedish requesters and those from around the world. The other Nordic countries of Finland and Norway are also generally good at putting transparency into practice, having strongly-developed cultures of open government.
European Ombudsman consultation on EU expert groups creates hope for reform
Madrid, 5 September 2014 – Proactive transparency would help address the problem of business-domination of European Commission expert groups Access Info Europe concluded this week in its submission to the EU Ombudsman public consultation on expert groups.
The European Ombudsman's consultation came in response to a series of concerns raised by civil society, including the Alliance for Lobby Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) of which Access Info Europe is a Steering Committee member, about the overrepresentation of business lobbyists in expert groups.
In its submission, right to information experts Access Info highlighted the need for greater proactive transparency to permit the public to verify whether expert groups have a balanced composition representative of all relevant stakeholders. Information which should be made public should include the applications and declarations of participants, records of meetings, and copies of relevant documents.
Open data to get your teeth into!
Access Info invites open analysis of UK FCO documents
Madrid, 4 August 2014 – Access Info Europe called for fellow freedom of information activists to help analyse and discover the information and data held in the tens of UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office documents on negotiations in Brussels to revise the European Union's transparency law, in a crowdsourcing initiative launched today.
Download the documents here!
These documents, obtained as a result of a four-year legal battle, are a unprecedented insight into the debate around the right of access to EU documents that has been going on since 2008, and could prove which EU countries are, and are not, transparency champions.
Dive into the data and help shed some light on the relations between the EU and Member States and the so-called "policy-laundering" phenomenon, whereby citizens are told the EU is to blame for certain decisions which actually involve full and proactive Member State representatives' participation.
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