Madrid, 20 January 2012 – Access Info Europe has welcomed today’s publication of the Navarra region’s draft law on Transparency and Open Government, qualifying it as a “highly progressive law” which sets new standards for Spain and internationally.
The draft law was developed in consultation with the public and input from expert groups such as Access Info Europe and is now subject to a further public consultation until 7 February 2012. It contains three main sections: proactive publication, the right to request information, and public participation.
“This is a strong law in line with the best access to information laws globally,” commented Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe “and it goes even further than many laws by incorporating open data principles and public participation as inherent parts of the concept of open government.”
The draft establishes a number of principles including principles of transparency and proactive publication and that the administration should endeavour to anticipate the needs of the public. Consistent with its Open Data approach, the draft also establishes a principle of “technological neutrality” which favours use of open source software.
The stated intention of the Navarra regional government is to adopt the most advanced access to information and open government law in the world.
A Proactive Approach to Open Government
Positive features of the law include broad definitions of information and its application to all public bodies in Navarra and to private bodies exercising administrative functions. The chapter on proactive publication contains an extensive list of information including information related to urban planning, public procurement, public spending and subsidies.
The administration has 15 days to answer requests for information, which would significantly reduce timeframes in Spain where the current administrative law gives the administration 3 months to answer communications from citizens.
The exceptions in the law are largely in line with international standards, and are subject to harm and public interest tests, which is essential for the limitations on the right to be correctly interpreted. Access Info Europe has raised concerns that some of the exceptions are too broad, such as “statistical confidentiality” or information which is secret according to other laws, although this is something which may need to be worked out at the national level in Spain, which still has a state secrets law dating from 1968, the era of the Franco dictatorship.
New Hope for a National Access to Information Law in Spain
On the same day as Navarra published its draft open government law, Access Info Europe and other civil society groups in Spain held meetings with senior representatives of the new government to discuss their commitment to adopt a law in the first six months of 2012.
The Secretary of State for Relations with the Parliament, José Luis Ayllón, proposed holding public consultations on the draft national law which the Ministry of the Presidency is currently preparing.
Access Info Europe discussed the possibility of adopting a law which meets the standards of the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents, of recognising a fundamental right of access to information, and of establishing an independent body, for example by adding the role of protecting the right to information to the existing functions of the Data Protection Agency, as was done in countries such as Germany and the UK.
For further information – in English or Spanish – please contact:
Helen Darbishire, Executive Director, Access Info Europe
tel: + 34 667 685 319
Victoria Anderica, Legal Researcher & Campaigner, Access Info Europe
tel: 606 59 29 76