Madrid, 5 October 2017 – Access Info Europe has welcomed the inclusion of core access to information principles in the Council of Europe’s Guidelines on public participation in decision making.

The Guidelines, published last week on the eve of Right to Know Day (27 September 2017), include two of the pro-transparency organisation’s recommendations submitted during the 2016 public consultation: the need for timely provision of information and the narrow application of possible exceptions to access.

With the adoption of these guidelines, members of the Council of Europe must push to bridge the gap between citizens and decision makers, by enabling public participation in decision making alongside the adoption of ambitious transparency and accountability mechanisms,” stated Andreas Pavlou, Campaigner and Researcher at Access Info Europe.

Overall, the Guidelines incorporate four recommendations that form part of Access Info’s campaign to increase transparency of decision-making processes around Europe, namely:
» Transparency applies to all: All public bodies responsible for decision making should be subject to access to information laws;
» Better Proactive Publication: Proactive publication is essential for timely participation;
» Rapid responses to requests: Timely provision of information and prompt responses to requests facilitate public participation;
» Apply exceptions narrowly: Exceptions to access should be applied narrowly and take into account any overriding public interest in disclosure.

There is no explicit reference to create records – something that research has found to be a significant problem in various Council of Europe countries – and hence Access Info is recommending that public authorities pay particular attention to document decision-making processes.

A failure to keep detailed records of things like minutes of meetings and justifications of the basis for decisions, risks limiting participation and undermining accountability,” added Pavlou.

The Guidelines for civil participation in political decision making were adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 27 September 2017 at the 1295th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies.

You can find the Guidelines here.

For more information, please contact:

Luisa Izuzquiza, Communications Officer | Access Info Europe
Andreas Pavlou, Campaigner and Researcher | Access Info Europe

Send an e-mail or call +34 913 656 558

Photo: Congress of local and regional authorities via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)