Friday 12 December 2008

Member states vs. EU Commission on transparency and access to documents - updated

According to EUobserver, member states, and especially Finland and Sweden, are fighting against an EU Commission proposal that aims at reforming the public access to EU documents.

The Finnish Minister for EU affairs, Astrid Thors, is quoted (update: full speech, via Wobbing Europe):
"Our interpretation is that the commission proposes to exclude certain documents, such as documents related to the commission's own inspections. [...] The justification for this exclusion is that it would ease the workload of the commission, releasing them from the duty of assessing the documents one by one. But on the contrary, we believe that considering documents one by one is a cornerstone of this legislation. What we may lose in the end with a little bit more work, we win by having a good and sound administration"
In the Green Paper "Public Access to Documents held by institutions of the European Community - A review" of the Commission this reads as follows:
"Experience has shown that the handling of requests can be burdensome. The purpose of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 being to disclose information in the public interest, the institutions have to balance the interest in disclosure against the workload entailed by the handling of a request. A situation where important resources are devoted to a limited number of voluminous, complex or otherwise burdensome requests would not be in the public interest. Therefore, it might be useful to define criteria with regard to the proportionality of access requests."
I hope that Finland and Sweden will not remain the only countries who will rally against any move to restrict access to EU documents.

It is amazing how a supra-state organisations that is already almost totally intransparent for the wider public is still trying to limit external access to its documents. We need to act, because if we keep quiet, we will lose more and more democratic elements of the European Union, and in the end, the only things remaining will be a number invisible Eurocrats and the priggish cries of pan-European eurosceptics...

I would like to see the European parties to give a very clear position on these issues. I won't vote for anyone who doesn't make access to EU documents and EU transparency a major goal!


Anonymous said...

Instead of handling requests manually, many documents could be proactively published electronically on the web. This means one unit of effort for each document instead of one unit of effort for each request of that document.