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Dutch Access to Documents (WOB) Controversy

Not only in the EU is a debate (or should we say, battle) still ongoing over the meaning and usefulness of transparency. Also in the Netherlands has a member of government sought to reopen a fundamental discussion on the current WOB-regime.

WOB is the Dutch equivalent of FOI and comes from the Dutch term Wet Openbaarheid van Bestuur (Law of Administrative Openness). A recent series of public statements made by the Dutch Minister for Home Affairs Donner suggest that the Dutch Government might consider rolling back the current arrangements.

This change of position is noteworthy, as the Netherlands have from the earliest moment been part of the vocal minority in the EU which advocates greater openness. It might also suggest that the Netherlands may assume a more relaxed and less principled attitude in the ongoing review negotiations of regulation 2001/1049 which governs access to documents of the European institutions.

Donner’s positioning has met fierce indignation within the journalistic community. See, for example, enclosed article in Dutch weekly Vrij Nederland (in Dutch).