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Austria Constitutional Amendment:
Abolishing secrecy but failing to recognise the right to Information

padlockeyes-viennaMadrid, 16 June 2014 – The Austrian government is on the point of missing an historical opportunity to bring the constitution into line with international standards on the right of access to information, according to open government experts Access Info Europe.

Access Info today welcomed the proposal to abolish the constitutional protection of secrecy, a provision first adopted in 1920, which places an obligation on public officials to maintain official secrecy.

But Access Info Europe’s Executive Director Helen Darbishire expressed concerns that the proposed replacement amendment is so weak and limited that it is not likely to have any impact on freedom of information in Austria.

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European Commission attempting to block citizens' requests via AsktheEU.org

postmanMadrid, 2 June 2014 – The European Commission is impeding the public's right to submit access to documents requests via the AsktheEU.org web portal by refusing to register requests which are not accompanied by a postal address.

AsktheEU.org, which is run by Access Info Europe, was launched in September 2011 with the aim of making the requesting process more transparent. It is set up to work via email, with requests and responses published online in real time. Hence it does not currently have the capacity to deliver postal addresses without making them public.

The Commission in early May started to send messages to requesters stating that postal address are "required for registering and handling your request in line with the procedural requirements," even though it makes no mention of where such requirements are written down. The Commission message goes on to state that "Pending your reply, we reserve the right to refuse the registration of your request."

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Politics for People Campaign: Now is time for new MEPs to tackle Corporate Lobbying

elected_meps_spain2Brussels, Madrid, Cologne, 30 May 2014 – Civil society groups from across Europe this week called on newly elected Members of the European Parliament to make an urgent priority of tackling the problem of corporate lobbying in the next parliamentary term.

The call by members of the Alliance for Lobby Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER_EU), of which Access Info Europe is a Steering Committee member, went out to all 751 new MEPs and in particular to the 174 who signed a pre-election pledge under the Politics for People campaign to ‘’stand-up for citizens and democracy against the excessive lobbying influence of banks and big business.”[1]

The Politics for People pledge campaign [2] was one of the most successful civil society pledge campaigns around the 2014 European parliamentary elections, being signed by a total of 1338 candidates. The picture shows the 13 Spanish MEPs who signed the pledge and were elected.

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Civil society calls for full transparency about EU-US trade negotiations

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Madrid, 26 May 2014 – More than 250 civil society organisations worldwide, including Access Info Europe, today called on the European Commission to make the negotiations on the future Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) open and transparent.

The TTIP is the biggest bilateral trade agreement ever negotiated and it will have significant effects on the economy, the environment and the future of citizens on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond. There is a clear public interest in being able to follow these negotiations, and yet, since they started, they have taken place behind a veil of secrecy, with the public denied access to details of the proposals.

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