Madrid, 27 February 2017 – A month after 120 people from around Europe submitted a total of 189 requests for data on the travel expenses of European Commissioners for the year 2016, the requests have not even been registered by the Commission, in flagrant breach of its legal obligation to do so, and to respond within 15 working days.
In an email exchange with Access Info’s director, Helen Darbishire, the Head of the Transparency Unit at the Secretariat General, Martin Kröger, has stated in writing that “Commission does not intend to send individual communications … to the applicants” and that “the Commission is currently examining the appropriate way of handling these requests.”
This is unusual behaviour, given that requests are normally registered within one working day.
“The wall of silence facing these requests is unprecedented and shocking,” stated Helen Darbishire, “the blatant refusal to register and respond is a violation of the right of access to documents protected by the EU treaties.”
Access Info has also denounced the attempt by the Commission, in its email, to make us responsible for communicating with the requesters, because “the requests have been triggered by an AccessInfoEurope [sic] initiative via the AsktheEU website.”
In her response, declining to act as an intermediary, Helen Darbishire reminded the Commission that members of the public who have engaged in this campaign by submitting requests have the right to be treated equally before the law. She asserted that it is the role of civil society to press for transparency around the spending of public funds on public business.
In the meantime, Access Info has received a holding response to its 31 January 2017 letter to Vice President Frans Timmermans, in which the pro-transparency organisation called for proactive publication of the expenses data. The message from Timmermans’ cabinet confirms receipt of the letter and says “we will reply shortly.”
“In spite of the bizarre reluctance by the Commission to provide the public with the travel expenses data, we are still hoping that it will do the right thing and publish this information in full,” concluded Darbishire.
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