Madrid, 10 September 2013 – Access Info Europe has again warned that the current version of the Spanish transparency law does not meet international standards.
The law will be approved by the Parliament on Thursday 12 September, it will then be passed to the Senate for approval. When adopted, Spain would rank 72nd out of 96 countries with access to information laws, obtaining 70 points from a total of 150 on the Global RTI-Rating.
In the upcoming debate, the parliament is expected to approve amendments to the transparency law adopted by the Constitutional Committee on 31 July 2013. These amendments have marginally broadened the scope of bodies to which the law applies, whilst still maintaining the same faults as those in the version presented on 26 March 2012. These shortcomings have been criticised by international organisations such as Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and national and international experts.
The limitations of the transparency law include that the right of access to information is not recognised as a fundamental right. The scope of law excludes much information, there are proactive publication obligations do not apply to all institutions equally, and the appeals body is not independent.
“It is very disappointing to see that after all this time, Spain is not going to meet the minimum standards demanded by the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents, despite government promises of passing a law that is cutting-edge ,” says Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe, the NGO that started the campaign for a transparency law in Spain in September 2006.
At the plenary session in Congress on 12 September, parliamentarians will be voting on changes to the draft law that amongst others will provide for the inclusion of political parties, trade unions and associations. The Royal Family and the Bank of Spain will also be included as well as an obligation to publish certain information proactively.
Another important change is the creation of a Transparency and Good Governance Council that still will not be independent (it is linked directly to the Ministry of Finance and Public Administration) and its composition is highly politicised.
“The review body is not independent and is highly politicised. Its power to deal with the appeals is not clearly defined, we don´t know whether its decisions will be binding, there will be only one person in charge of responding to appeals, which is clearly insufficient, and already we can see that there will be many examples of double administrative silence, because negative silence is also allowed when appeals are made,” comments Victoria Anderica, Legal Researcher and Campaigner of Access Info Europe.
The Senate could propose amendments to improve the draft, but this is unlikely given that the governing Partido Popular also has a majority in the upper house.
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1. Access Info Europe has conducted an in-depth analysis of the new draft of the transparency law using the Global Right to Information Rating indicators. These indicators, developed by Access Info Europe and Center for Law and Democracy and revised by experts in this field, reveal that if the current draft of the law was approved, Spain would obtain 68 points from the total of 150 and would be ranked 75 out of 96 countries.
In addition to the problems mentioned above, the analysis reveals other weakness in the Spanish draft law such as lack of sanctions and weak appeals mechanisms.