Madrid, 20 September 2021In an open letter to European Commissioners Thierry Breton and Vera Jourová sent today, Access Info and other leading transparency organisations raised concerns about the Commission’s failure to take a decision on publication of company data under the Open Data Directive, even after the 17 June 2021 deadline Member States to transpose the directive has passed.

The European Commission should by now have held a month-long public consultation on the Implementing Act for the Open Data Directive, permitting potential users, including journalists, businesses, and anti-corruption organisations, to put forward arguments as to its democratic value for fighting corruption, ensuring a level playing field for business, and stimulating entrepreneurship.

In the letter, the transparency organisations express concern that there has been no news about the adoption of the Implementing Act since January 2021, meaning that, even in those Member States that have transposed the directive, there are delays on opening up vital datasets.

Another concern is that an August 2020 Impact Assessment conducted by consultancy firms for the European Commission, does not seem to have been shared with Member State representatives on the European Commission’s Open Data Committee, and has not been disseminated publicly, preventing a debate on its conclusions. Access Info only obtained a copy following an access to documents request.

Access Info’s June 2021 analysis of the Impact Assessment, found that the main obstacle to opening company registers is that, in a few wealthy countries such as Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, there would be a loss of revenue from selling these data, and in a few others there might be some investment needed to transform registers to open data formats. This led to a recommendation not to open this data, rather than other possible solutions such as staggered publication while work to upgrade databases is carried out.

A further concern is that, in its January 2021 letter to Access Info and other organisations, the Commission indicated that there are possible privacy obstacles to opening company data, but the Impact Assessment does not in fact make the case for these. This underlines the urgency of a public debate based on the facts, and the holding of the much-delayed public consultation.

Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe said:

The pandemic has shown us how important company data is for investigative journalists and civil society watchdogs to combat fraud, corruption, and misspending. We urgently need this data to track spending of Europe’s massive recovery package.
In this context, the rather paradoxical, secrecy around the Open Data Directive is unacceptable, so are the massive delays in getting the Implementing Act adopted.

Jesse Renema of the Open State Foundation stated:

It cannot be the case in 2021 that concerns about the financial costs of digitalising data are an impediment to openness. Nor is it acceptable that governments are prioritising the profits from selling company data over the huge financial benefits to society of making it open.”

The signatories call on Breton and Jourová to provide an update on plans for the adoption of the Implementing Act and the timing of the public consultation.

The groups have also asked which information has been provided to Member States with regard to the delays with the Implementing Act, and how this might affect the transposition and implementation of the Directive.

For more information, please contact:

Helen Darbishire | Executive Director | Access Info Europe
Phone: +34 667 685 319

Rachel Hanna | Legal Researcher and Campaigner | Access Info Europe
Phone: +34 637 226 609