The law will be adopted on 28 November 2013 but will enter into force only after one year at the national level and two years at the regional level
Madrid, 26 November 2013 – The Spanish Law on Transparency, Access to Information and Good Governance was approved by the Senate last Wednesday with no improvements to the right of access to information, despite the rejection of the text from the majority of parliamentary groups. The following political groups and parties voted against the law: ERC, AMAIUR, IU, ENTESA PROGRES PER CATALUNYA y PSOE.
“The ruling Partido Popular has ignored civil society during the entire process of adopting the transparency law, and has proposed a law that violates minimum international standards”, commented Victoria Anderica Caffarena, Campaigner and Legal Researcher at Access Info Europe.
The Senate also ignored the various calls by the OSCE for Spain to improve the draft Transparency Law. In June 2012, the OSCE warned that the draft law “does not comply with the norms and principles already laid down by Human Rights Courts or international organisations including the Convention of the Council of Europe on Access to Public Documents”. The most recent message was sent on 13 September 2013 and said that the law would complicate the work of journalists acting as watchdogs.
The Law which will be adopted by the Congress on 28 November 2013 will not be in line with international standards and will be in position 72 of 95 countries with access to information laws, with 70 out of a total of 150 points, according to the analysis by Access Info Europe based on the Global RTI Rating indicators.
Spain urgently needs a transparency law, above all in the context of the current economic crisis, the social concerns coming from the actions of public authorities, and recent corruption scandals. Not without reason, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights commented in October 2013 that “procedures and decision making should be open and transparent, with the aim to guarantee responsibility.”
Access Info notes that in its self-evaluation of its Open Government Partnership (OGP) action plan (October 2013), the Spanish government asserted that it has complied with its commitment to adopt a Transparency Law even though the law is not in force and the chapters on proactive publication and requesting information will not enter into force for another year, and not for two years for the regional level, the Autonomous Communities. On the other hand, the section on Good Governance, which is not directly related to transparency, will come into force the day following the publication of the law in Spain’s Official Gazette (Boletín Oficial del Estado, BOE).
“The need for a transparency law is urgent and although we understand that the creation of a transparency portal takes time, there is no reason to not respond straight away to access to information requests at both the state and regional levels”, added Anderica.
Notes to the Editor
This Law was approved by the Spanish Cabinet in March 2012 and then submitted to the Congress where it underwent a number of changes that the OSCE considered as purely cosmetic. During the debate in the Congress, the scope of the law was widened in Article 3 to include institutions like political parties and trade unions, but in a limited form only needing to comply with some obligations of proactive publication of information.
Various technical changes that did not correspond to the changes that have been demanded by civil society since 2006 and that did not match those demanded by the recent #SenadoTransparente campaign were made following the report commissioned to study the Draft Transparency, Access to Public Information and Good Governance Law. The three concrete changes demanded by this recent campaign included that the right of access to information be recognised as a fundamental right, that the law does not exclude certain types of information and that the oversight body be independent and having binding power.
Photo taken by Jumaji Solar on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/jumanjisolar/5431300031/sizes/m/in/photostream/