Access Info calls for all obstacles to requests to be removed
Madrid, 28 September 2021 – On this year’s International Day for Universal Access to Information, Access Info is celebrating the over 10,000 access to documents requests sent via the AsktheEU.org platform since it was launched at a European Ombudsman event on the same day 10 years ago.
AsktheEU.org, run by Access Info with support from mySociety, gives everyone a simple way to ask for access to the documents to European Union bodies, and also makes all the responses public.
“AsktheEU.org makes EU transparency more transparent and promotes the use of this right to increase public participation and make the EU more accountable”, said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info, who officially launched the site in Brussels on 28 September 2011.
Testimonies from Users
In 10 years, a fully-fledged community of information seekers has developed around AsktheEU.org, including civil society, journalists, academics and active citizens interested in knowing more about what the EU does.
For them, the user-friendly structure of the platform makes it easier not only to submit requests, but to carry out their professional work, learning from others’ requests and find new pieces of information for their investigations.
“I am especially excited to see the success that AsktheEU.org has had over the years, as well as the extremely positive feedback we have received from users!”, added Helen Darbishire.
It’s not all good news: obstacles to requesting EU documents
While celebrating this landmark, Access Info is calling on all EU bodies to ensure that requesting information is easy.
Two types of problems are highlighted. The first is languages: although the EU has 24 official languages, most of the information on the websites of EU bodies about the right to request information and how to do so practically is only in English, possibly in one or two other languages (such as French and German), but rarely in all 24 languages.
“This should be a right for all, but if you are not confident in English, you are unlikely ever to make use of your right to EU documents. The language barrier is one factor making citizens feel distant from European institutions”, said Martina Tombini, Research and Campaigner at Access Info.
Further problems that Access Info today called on the EU to address urgently are related to the mechanism for making requests. In particular, the pro-transparency organisation urged:
- The European Commission to stop insisting on postal addresses and, in line with recommendations from the European Ombudsman, find a simple digital way of registering delivery of responses by email;
- Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, to stop requiring a copy of requesters’ IDs and drop its complex web-based system for delivering responses;
- The European Medicines Agency to provide all requesters with an email for making requests, which would also allow AsktheEU.org to function for requests the EMA.
“It is unacceptable that EU bodies are putting unnecessary practical obstacles that dissuade citizens from exercising their fundamental right to know what the EU is doing”, added Martina Tombini.
More about AsktheEU.org
AsktheEU.org is one of the 28 websites deploying “Alaveteli”, the open source software that makes AsktheEU.org so great! There are equally successful platforms at national level, including the first-ever WhatDoTheyKnow, for making requests in the UK, and MaDada, Alaveteli’s French version. For more information on all Alaveteli deployments please visit: https://alaveteli.org/deployments/.
Are you a journalist, civil society, or academic? Sign up to AsktheEU.org Pro by 30 September and get your Pro membership for free, valid until the end of the year. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more info!
For more information, please contact:
Martina Tombini | Researcher and Campaigner | Access Info Europe
martina [at] access-info.org
Helen Darbishire | Executive Director | Access Info Europe
helen [at] access-info.org