What is going on in Spain?
Madrid, 27 February 2012 - The picture says it all: a government embattled by corruption scandals is so reluctant to answer questions that it puts journalists in a separate room during a press conference. This happened on 2 February 2013 for a press conference given by Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy.
The objective was to avoid being put on the spot by uncomfortable questions about the governing Popular Party's finances.
It's sometimes hard to follow what is going on in Spain: The leading political party and even the royal household are embroiled in corruption scandals. In response, everyone is talking about "transparency" but the sub-standard access to information law is making slow progress through the parliament.
Access Info Europe's director Helen Darbishire, who has been in Spain for over six years promoting the right of access to information, answers questions about what is going on and how the current corruption scandals affecting the campaign for open government?
Q: Where is the access to information law now?
Helen Darbishire: The draft Law on Transparency, access to public information and good governance is currently being considered by the Constitutional Commission of the Parliament (Congress). The version currently under consideration is that submitted to the parliament by the Spanish cabinet (the Consejo de Ministros) on 27 July 2012; see statement by Cabinet office (in Spanish). To the best of our knowledge, and in spite of various promises in response to criticisms of the draft, it has not been changed since.
EU Transparency on Trial
Luxembourg, 21 February 2013 – At a public hearing before the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg today, the Council of the European Union argued that the “effectiveness” of the decision-making process is contingent on withholding from citizens information about which Member State is proposing what during ongoing legislative processes.
The hearing, held to consider the appeal by the Council against Access Info's March 2011 win at the General Court for access to a legislative document, centred on whether the public can know which Member State is proposing what during ongoing legislative processes, or whether transparency of this nature would seriously undermine the Council's decision-making process.
The Council is supported by the Czech Republic, Greece, France and Spain; the United Kingdom which is also party to the case did not make either a written or an oral intervention.
The Czech government raised the spectre of unfavourable newspaper headlines if the public were to know which positions governments were taking during legislative drafting in Brussels. The Greek government warned of a “danger of confusion in the public mind about the positions of Member States” as citizens might “misunderstand” that preliminary texts are not final.
The French delegation argued that transparency would permit “targeted lobbying” and that it is “not necessary for participation”, whilst the Spanish government's lawyer questioned Access Info's interest in accessing the requested document and noted that transparency revealing concessions made during negotiations would be a “sign of weakness” on the part of Member States.
La transparence des activités policières de maintien de l’ordre : Lancement d’un projet de contrôle à l'échelle européenne
Madrid, le 19 février 2013 –Inquiété par le manque de transparence concernant l’utilisation grandissante de la force par la police lors des manifestations, Access Info Europe a présenté des demandes d’accès à l’information auprès de 41 pays. Ces requêtes s’intéressent aux différents aspects des activités policières, de l’utilisation d’équipements tels que les balles en caoutchouc, les matraques ou les canons à eau, à la formation des officiers de police ou encore aux rapports d’évaluation du maintien de l’ordre durant les manifestations.
Dans le contexte de crise économique, l’Europe est le témoin d’un nombre grandissant de manifestations ayant lieu dans l'espace public, certaines s'accompagnant de violence.
Il apparaît essentiel que la société civile et les médias soient suffisamment informés de la manière dont la police se prépare à de tels événements, les gère lorsqu'ils surviennent puis les évalue, et ce afin de garantir le respect des libertés d’expression et de rassemblement.
European poll reveals widespread concern about EU Transparency
Vast majority of people want more transparency, ethics and lobbying regulation
Brussels, January 31, 2013 – A majority of people across Europe are concerned about ethics and lobbying in European Union policy-making, and want better regulation of lobbyists, as well as increased transparency of the EU, according to a new opinion poll.
The poll conducted by TNS opinion, and completed by over 6,000 people in six European countries, reveals that three quarters (73%) of respondents are concerned that lobbyists representing the business sector have too much influence on EU decisions. 80% of those surveyed believe there should be mandatory regulation of lobbying to ensure a balanced participation of different interests in decision-making.
The results come at the beginning of the European Year of Citizens, which aims to stimulate dialogue between governments and society, and thereby better engage citizens in debates and decisions that affect them.
Natacha Cingotti from Friends of the Earth Europe said: “The results of this poll should be a wake-up call for European decision-makers. Citizens are clearly asking for compulsory regulation for lobbying. The Parliament should insist that this happens by making the Transparency Register mandatory. This poll also signals that the poor enforcement of the MEP code of conduct negatively affects citizens’ confidence. Strict implementation and monitoring of MEPs’ second jobs are urgently needed to avoid conflicts of interest.”
4 out of 5 people polled (80%) said they feel less confident that an MEP represents the best interests of citizens if they also work for a lobby group or a private company. French respondents (76%) felt the most strongly that MEPs should not be allowed to work for a lobby group or a private company while they are serving as elected representatives.