Access Info has identified some key problems with EU transparency:
People are having problems getting access to information: the European Ombudsman’s report for 2008 says that 36% of citizens’ complaints relate to transparency and access to documents. But at the same time, most users of the EU’s access rules are businesses rather than journalists, civil society organisations or members of the public. And even when these stakeholders might think about making requests the explanations given on the EU’s websites makes it seem quite daunting (despite the fact that making requests is really quite straightforward!).
The proposed reforms to the access rules presented by the European Commission in 2008 would reduce the right of Europe’s citizens to know about decision-making, the exercise of power, legislative initiatives and the spending of public funds in Brussels. The result is likely to be a greater distancing of citizens from Union institutions and a lowering of public trust just at the moment when the EU is seeking to recover from the failure to adopt the Lisbon Treaty.
It is also of great concern that the debate about the revision of the access rules is itself inaccessible to the public – Access Info has had difficulty obtaining key documents about the proposed reform which would tell us the positions that different member states are taking over the reforms. We have launched legal challenges against this lack of transparency – more details can be found below on this page.
The legislative process is extremely complex and very difficult for citizens to follow, the Commission does not disclose legal advice nor is it possible to get information about the positions taken by member states in preparing draft legislation; trying to follow the process involves a maze of websites which could only be fully understood by dedicated experts. There is no reason that the legislative process at the EU should be less transparent than it is in member states.