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Looking for Leadership on Transparency in Europe

helen_europarl_roadmaptranspMadrid, 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.

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New Features Launched on Redesigned AsktheEU.org

Three New Transparency Campaigns Focus on the Demand for More Access to EU Documents

widget_asktheeuMadrid, 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.

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Spain: Three months to transparency

calendar_Madrid, 9 September 2014 - Spain's Transparency Law will enter into force in three months, on 10 December 2014, but to date the Spanish Government has not made public any information about how the new law will be implemented nor how the Transparency Council will be appointed.

Access Info Europe and Fundación Ciudadana Civio have yet to receive a reply to a letter sent on 20 August 2014 asking Spanish State Secretary José Luis Ayllón Manso to clarify the status of preparations for implementation of the law.

The Spanish government should do the following before the law comes into effect on 10 December 2014:

» Pass the Royal Decree approving the organic Statute for the Transparency and Good Governance Council: According to the law, approved in December 2013, this should have been done by March 2014. This Decree is important as it should set out, among other issues, the modalities for appointing the president of the Transparency Council. Civil society is concerned about the independence of the body and the rules which will determine how it functions.

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Hitting a Hundred Access to Information Laws Globally

Need for Better Data on Transparency in Practice

Paraguay_President[UPDATE 19 September 2014 - This law was signed and adopted by the President of Paraguay on Thursday 18 September 2014, making Paraguay the 100th country to adopt an access to information law]

Madrid, 26 August 2014 – The civil society movement campaigning for government openness is on the point of reaching a significant landmark with the Latin American country of Paraguay awaiting presidential sign off on what will be the world's 100th access to information law. The law was passed by Paraguay's parliament on 21 August 2014.
[The picture shows Horacio Cartes, President of Paraguay, who should now sign the law].

Right to information specialist organisation Access Info Europe congratulates the global freedom of information community for achieving this milestone.

Twenty years ago, in 1994, there were just 15 access to information laws globally. The democratic transitions in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and subsequent democracy movements globally have given impetus to the transparency movement for securing these laws. The Open Data and Open Government movements, plus advocacy and litigation from freedom of information advocates, are helping to drive this forward.

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