Madrid, 1 July 2022 – This week Access Info submitted an appeal to the Spanish Transparency Council after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs refused access to any documents at all about Spain’s signature and ratification of the Tromsø Convention, arguing that disclosure might damage international relations.

This refusal is perplexing given that ratification of the Tromsø Convention is a flagship commitment under Spain’s IV Open Government Partnership Action Plan, and the signature ceremony in Strasbourg on 23 November 2021 was a very public event covered in Spanish media.

The appeal submitted yesterday comes after a tortuous process of a series of requests and refusals, which started on 22 March 2022 with the simple attempt by Access Info’s director Helen Darbishire to obtain a copy of the opinion on ratification by Spain’s Council of State, which ensures the legality of all acts and decisions. The full timeline is in the notes below.

Not for the first time

This is not the first time that there has been a lack of transparency about transparency in Spain. In 2017, Access Info won a case before the National High Court as a result of which we obtained previously undisclosed information about the II Action Plan.

Much has changed since then, with the creation of a 64 person-strong Multi-Stakeholder Forum, and a very strong dynamic of working groups with regular meetings.

Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info:

The difficulty which I have had in obtaining this information, in spite of being close to the process and knowing how to exercise my right of access to information, demonstrates the huge distance that still exists between the public bodies which take decisions and civil society organisations, let alone the wider public.

The need for law reform

The procedural challenges experienced with this request, also highlight the pressing need to reform Spain’s 2013 Transparency Law, which only scores 78 out of 150 points on the RTI Rating. This reform is another commitment under the current OGP Action Plan, but is proceeding slowly.

Patricia González, Legal Researcher at Access Info said:

In our appeal you can see how complicated this process has been. Four request, contradictory messages from distinct government bodies, and over two months just to get a refusal notice which itself seems confused about whether it’s a refusal to process the request or a refusal to provide the documents based on exceptions.

This highlights the importance of streamlining the procedural aspects of the access to information law in the upcoming reform, as well as addressing other questions such as making this a fundamental right and widening the scope to the legislative and judicial powers.

All documents related:

  • First request
  • Second request
  • First request decision
  • Second request decision
  • Extension of the decision period
  • Appeal to the CTBG

For more Information, please contact:

Patricia González, Legal Researcher and Campaigner | Access Info Europe
Telephone +34 637 22 66 09