Access Info firmly believes that an access to information law is meaningless unless it is actually used. Apart from that, making requests is an excellent way to monitor the state of transparency within the European Union. It also provides us with opportunities to push for greater transparency by taking legal action, for example.
In general, we request information, wait for the response, and carefully analyse it to see if it is in line with international access to information standards. If it isn’t, we submit a confirmatory application, which is an appeal to the body who holds the information, asking them to reconsider their decision. In some cases, if the outcome is still detrimental to the principles of transparency, we take the responsible body to Court.
Examples of Access Info’s requests to the European Union
19 November 2009: Access Info Europe asked 16 of the European Union’s Directorates General (DGs) for internal guidelines on how they handle requests for information.
The point was to get an insider’s view on how civil servants in the EU fulfil their transparency obligations.
However, the request process threw up a series of obstacles facing members of the public filing a request for documents for the first time, including:
- • DGs do not offer clear mechanisms for filing access to documents requests;
- • Requests submitted via website enquiry forms are not treated as formal requests;
- • Not all requests are acknowledged;
- • Not all requests were issued official access to documents reference numbers;
- • Some DGs refused to process the requests.
The findings of Access Info’s research were published in the report “Question for Brussels: How should a citizen request EU documents?”. You can find this in the “advocacy” section too.