Madrid, 4 May 2017 – In an important victory for advancing government transparency in Spain, the Madrid High Court has ruled that the Spanish Government should provide Access Info Europe with a series of documents related to its participation in the Open Government Partnership (OGP).
In a particularly interesting decision in Spain’s still young and evolving jurisprudence on the right of access to information – the Transparency Law came into force in December 2014 – the Court found that for civil society to participate in decision making on open government policies, having full access to relevant information is essential.
“We welcome this ruling, both in order to ensure transparency around open government processes in Spain and because the Court is supporting the principle that open decision making is essential for public participation,” stated Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe, and also a member of the Open Government Partnership Steering Committee.
The irony of the case was not lost on the Court, which made clear that given the nature of the Open Government Partnership, there was a particular imperative to be transparent. The Court stated that:
The Open Government Partnership (OGP), of which Spain forms a part, has the objective of ensuring the participation of civil society and citizenry in the development of public activities, which in turn makes it essential to have access to the relevant information in order to put forward opinions, proposals, and improvements in the planning of public policies and to know the criteria being taken into consideration in decision making, and, overall, to meet the goals of the OGP.
The Court underscored the democratic principles at stake in this case, noting that “Here it’s relevant to apply the maxim ‘information is power’: it is the possibility of participation.”
This somewhat surreal case dates back to August 2015 when, faced with a wall of silence from the Spanish Cabinet Office (Ministry of the Presidency) on progress in implementing commitments made under Open Government Partnership processes, Access Info’s director Helen Darbishire submitted an information request asking for documents that would provide status updates.
Not only did the Spanish Government refuse to provide full documentation in response to the initial information request, but when Spain’s Transparency Council ruled in favour of disclosure, the Government went to Court to challenge that ruling.
The Spanish Government now has to decide whether to appeal. If not, it has 15 working days to provide Access Info with the documents.
For more information, please contact:
Luisa Izuzquiza, Communications Officer | Access Info Europe
Helen Darbishire, Executive Director | Access Info Europe
Send an e-mail or call +34 913 656 558