Transparency of Commissioners’ travel expenses “disproportionate” says European Commission

Transparency of Commissioners’ travel expenses “disproportionate” says European Commission

Madrid, 27 July 2017 – Access Info has described as extremely regrettable that six months after 120 European citizens requested access to last year’s travel expenses of the 28 EU Commissioners, the Commission has taken a unilateral decision to disclose data just for January and February 2016, and that it will not contemplate any greater transparency.

Furthermore, in response to our letter to Vice President Timmermans proposing that this data be published proactively, the Commission has concluded that it “does not see added value in publishing online the detailed travel expenses” as the cost of processing the data “would be disproportionate.”

The limited disclosure of data and disappointing response to our letter comes after the European Ombudsman accepted a formal complaint from 53 of the requesters protesting numerous violations in handling the requests, including a refusal to process them, on top of the refusal to make this basic travel data public. A full timeline is provided below.

Giving 120 requesters only two months’ worth of expenses data is a token gesture,” commented Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe. “The Commission has told us that it has had lengthy discussions about how to handle these requests over the course of the past six months. That time could have been better spent responding to the requests.”

The real cost here is not the cost of processing data, but rather it’s the cost to the credibility of and trust in the European Commission when it refuses to publish basic information about the spending of taxpayers’ funds,” added Darbishire.

Access Info noted that not only is confidence in the EU at stake here, but that the refusal of the Commission to publish this data set a very bad example across the EU and more widely.

“Presented with an opportunity to show some leadership on making public spending transparent – something essential for fighting corruption and ensuring integrity of public life – the Commission has decided to hide behind minimal actions and an apparent aversion to being open with the public,” noted Andreas Pavlou, Access Info Researcher and Campaigner.

The European Commission could be setting a gold standard and promoting a best practice for all Member States to aspire to rather than lowering the bar,” concluded Pavlou.

 

 

For more information, please contact:

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

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

Photo: Vlaams Parlement via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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