Archive for the ‘Civil society’ Category

European journalist collective launches series of publications on Council secrecy

Monday, November 30th, 2020

A collective of European journalists investigating European Union politics has recently launched a investigative study into the secrecy of Council decision making.


Council of EU undergoing full reorientation on transparency question

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

On Wednesday 18 July 2018, the committee  of ambassadors of the member states to the EU (Coreper) held an orientational debate about the need for reforms of the Council’s transparency policy, thus Agence Europe reports.

The debate, which appears as the opening move in a further series of discussions about potential changes to the Council’s internal transparency policy, was based on a series of proposals drafted by the Council’s Secretariat. This document discusses possible and necessary changes in the face of new case law and further external pressures.

The proposals include, inter alia, ways to make the legislative process more traceable and ‘readable’, to apply more consistent rules in the drafting of legislative documents, and to centre transparency around “milestones” in the legislative process. Furthermore, it puts forward a plan to ‘normalise’ the publication of member state inputs (statements, proposals for amendments) into legislative debates. Under the current rules, the Council applies a fragmented policy by which member state inputs are sometimes recorded in the official documents, and sometimes not at all. The Council has so far been able to apply this policy since the formal rules do not stipulate how a legislative document is supposed to be drafted.


Dutch Presidency of the EU to host “transparency unconference”

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

logo-transparencycamp-europeThe Dutch government, which currently holds the Presidency of the EU, has recently announced that it will host a “transparency unconference” in Amsterdam on 1 June. The event, which has its own dedicated website is co-organised by the Dutch NGO Open State Foundation, which has as its mission the promotion of open data.

The term unconference stands for an “unscheduled conference, where you decide the agenda”. Among its objectives, the organisers pledge to go in a collective search for transparency innovations on the technological or other fronts. Participation to the event is free of charge.


Coalition of actors criticises Commission’s transparency initiative for falling short

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

Recent days have seen a wave of criticism against the new Commission’s transparency initiative. 

Maarten Hillebrandt

The recent campaign of lobbying watchdogs and critical EU actors follows after a conference on the topic, organised by EP vice-president Guillaume and a activist coalition called ALTER-EU, was held on 23 April in the EP. The conference focused on the role and functioning of the EU’s lobbying register and the impact of lobbying in the Council.


Transparency International’s Brussels office publishes integrity report

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

EUIS_ReportOn 29 April, the Brussels-based EU office of international NGO Transparency International launched the first-ever comprehensive integrity report on the European institutions.

The report, which covers most of the European institutions and a number of key agencies and bodies in 246 pages, seeks to provide the state of the art in the EU’s laws and practices with regard to integrity issues. Among other issues of good governance, it traces the rules and practices that are in place with regard to transparency and accountability, both of which are discussed separately for each institution.


Guide on exercising your access to documents rights in the EU

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Image AIE Guide on access Earlier this year, the Madrid-based transparency advocacy organisation Access Info Europe released a manual for those seeking access to European Union documents.

The Guide on Access EU Documents is particularly aimed at citizens and civil society, but also at academics and journalists. By explaining the administrative procedure underlying Regulation 1049/2001 (the EU’s law on access to documents) step by step, AIE seeks to “demystify” an opaque procedure which “remains underused by the population at large”.


Hearing in Appeal Access Info Europe Case Sees Parties Putting Forward Their Views About Transparency in Process

Monday, February 25th, 2013

The Council of the European Union defends its appeal in Luxembourg.  On Thursday 21 February, the litigating parties in the Access Info Europe case appeal convened at the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg for a hearing. This marks the next step in this case, since the the Council contested the General Court’s ruling by bringing an appeal.

The GC’s 2012 judgement in Access Info Europe caused a stir by affirming the NGO’s assertion that citizens need to be able to attribute policy positions to member states in order to participate meaningfully in European democracy. The practice by the Council to disclose arguments put forward without revealing their originating member states had been in place for some years before AIE challenged it. It is seen by the Council as an acceptable compromise between the requirements of democratic participation and those of effective decision-making. Ironically, Access Info Europe was in the process of mapping member state positions in the reform of the access to documents regulation for a report that it was writing, when it stumbled upon this practice.


“EU Ombudsman Blasts EC for Denying Document Access”

Friday, January 11th, 2013

Issues of integration, especially of economic integration, and the attached debate on national sovereignty are ranking high among the EU’s perceived transparency gaps these days.

With integration under pressure, markets and civil society nervously follow the news. The UK’s current lukewarmness towards the European project and considerations to rephrase the terms of its engagement are one good example. This week, the European Ombudsman riposted the Commission for refusing to disclose a report assessing the access of UK citizens to fundamental rights stipulated in the European Charter of Human Rights (ECHR), FOIANet reports. The Ombudsman was quoted stating:

In view of the importance of the documents concerned for the rights of EU citizens, and the fact that the Commission failed to engage constructively with the detailed analysis put forward by the Ombudsman, this constitutes a serious instance of maladministration.

So far, the Commission has not come up with a response to the Ombudsman’s report, to the detriment of the requesting party, the NGO European Citizen Action Service.

 For the full article, click here.

Wikileaks publishes new stack of documents, this time on Syria

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Yesterday, Wikileaks announced in a press conference in London that it was ready to commence the leaking of over 2.4 million emails originating from the Syrian regime.

Wikileaks, which specialises in digital leaking of government documents, admitted to not having been able to verify every document separately. However, the NGO added that it was ‘statistically confident that the vast majority of the data are what they purport to be’.

The leaking of the Syrian documents is the largest operation carried out by Wikileaks up until now. The leaking of US diplomatic correspondence in 2010, which has come to be known under the name of “cablegate”, entailed only just over 10% of the amount of documents. Wikileaks said it expected the leak would embarrass both Syria’s ruler Bashar al-Assad and his adversaries. Meanwhile, its figurehead Julian Assange is in the Ecuadorian embassy in London awaiting an application for political asylum.

The leaking of government information has, over the past years, attracted wide attention in the media but it is often overlooked as another form of government transparency (namely externally forced) that. Academics are not universally enthousiastic about the phenomenon of popular transparency. Last year, FOI expert Alasdair Roberts published a critical article on Wikileaks and forced transparency.

In the EU too, leaking continues to be a frequent occurrence. When some time ago the Dutch Senate published a document on its website that had been leaked by civil rights organisation Statewatch, the Commission threatened it with legal action. –MH

Click here to read more about the recent Wikileaks leak

Click here to go to the Syria files on the Wikileaks website

AP tests freedom of information laws worldwide

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Reporters evaluate regulations in 105 countries and EU

(reported adopted from FOIANet, MH)

NEW YORK – The Associated Press this week will unveil the findings of the first worldwide test of freedom of information laws.
AP’s report, scheduled for release on Thursday, Nov. 17, follows months of investigation across 105 countries with right-to-know laws, along with the European Union, and interviews with freedom of information experts worldwide. (more…)