Madrid/Brussels, 7 March 2014 – The European Central Bank (ECB) has once again come under fire for lack of transparency over the financial crisis, this time from the European Ombudsman who today regretted the decision not to release a letter sent to Ireland’s Finance Minister in November 2010.
The ECB letter, which might reveal pressure on the Irish government to enter the EU’s bailout programme, was requested by Irish journalist and FOI activist Gavin Sheridan in December 2011 via the web platform AsktheEU.org. The request and all correspondence can be found here.
The Ombudsman inspected the ECB letter to the Irish government and concluded that, now that three years have passed, the ECB could disclose it. The ECB, however, has again refused to publish the letter.
Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly commented: “At a time when so many people have been, and are, suffering as a result of austerity arising from the economic crisis, the very least a citizen can expect is openness and transparency from those who make decisions that directly impact on their lives and on the lives of their families.”
Access Info Europe today called on both the ECB and the Irish government to release the letter, and reiterated calls on the ECB to improve its overall record on transparency.
“It is highly regrettable that the ECB is digging in its heels with respect to transparency,” said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe which runs the AsktheEU.org request platform.
“There is a pressing need for greater transparency about how the financial crisis has been handled. It is precisely because – as the ECB argues – the crisis is ongoing, that the public needs information in order to hold past decisions to account and to engage in finding appropriate solutions now,” added Darbishire.
Patterns of ECB Secrecy
In September 2013, Access Info Europe published a report on requests filed to the ECB via AsktheEU.org. The report found that only one third (32%) of requests submitted to the ECB result in disclosure of information, well below the EU average.
The majority (17 out of 25) of the requests submitted to the ECB were for access to documents that had been exchanged between Member States (in most cases, the national Ministry of Finance) and the European Central Bank.
Access Info Europe also found that the ECB regularly invokes the need to protect monetary policy and the financial stability of the Union and its Member States when refusing access to information.
In the report, Access Info Europe made a series of recommendations to the European Central Bank on how to improve access to documents:
– To take decisions as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen
– To release documents which have been withheld based on illegitimate exceptions
– To review exceptions for consistency with EU Treaties
– To introduce duty to assist requestors and act on it
– To ensure prompt responses and review timeframes
For more information, please contact:
Helen Darbishire | Access Info Europe
email@example.com +34 913 65 65 58