Public Consultation on New Dutch FOI Law

The European Public Sector Information Platform reports the public consultation round that has opened for the Dutch FOI law.

The Dutch FOIA is generally considered fairly good example of a legal provision allowing citizens access to government information. On RTI-rating.org, an organisation that developed criteria to compare national FOIAs, the Netherlands scores in the top-middle range, along with countries such as Sweden and the UK, and above others like France and Denmark. Its acronym, “WOB” has caught on in journalist jargon even beyond the Netherlands: “wobbing” has become a verb signifying the filing of a request for access, and is today the name of a news website devoted to transparency across the EU.

However, the Dutch FOIA is considered a first-generation access law. Compared to many other countries, it misses some of the more innovative and technology-driven arrangements such as online registers of documents and proactive disclosures. The last revision of the Dutch took place over twenty years ago, in 1991.

A beginning of the revision process was already made under the former minister of home affairs, Mr Donner. His initiatives to significantly curb access rights were metwith hostility by the Dutch press, and the revision was put on low priority for the time being. Mr Donner is frequently described as an “old-style” politician with little regard for the “modern politics” of public oversight and participation. His successors Hirsch Ballin and Spies may be more open to innovative, rather than retrogressive reform.

The Dutch FOIA has suffered from a number structural obstacles. Particularly a provision requiring the government to pay fines when failing to meet deadlines in the law has caused a stir within the administration. Allegedly bureaus began to specialise on filing requests with the exact purpose of collecting such fines.

Click here to read more about the public consultation procedure.

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