Civil society

Podcast takes stock of the prospects of EU transparency reform

EU Scream podcast gets its teeth into the European transparency policy question.

Image credit: EU Scream facebook page

A recent episode of self-styled ‘progressive politics podcast’ EU Scream deals with the intricacies of current access to documents policy in the EU context. The episode, entitled Transparency, Interrupted, takes a closer look at Regulation 1049/2001 on access to the EU institutions’ documents, its defenders, and its discontents. In its introduction, the podcast sees a growing mismatch between technological innovations and the legislation’s ability to cover EU institutional decision making:

[A]s work went digital, the access rules have failed to keep pace. A lot still goes unrecorded. Or it goes unregistered, and can’t be accessed easily, if at all.

Credit: EU Scream

Podcast presenter James Kanter hears from various stakeholders in and outside of the Brussels institutions involved in implementing and using the existing access to documents regime. European Commissioner Vera Jourová expresses her support for reform of the transparency legislation, Council official Reijo Kemppinen cautions for the disruption of the delicate European-level decision-making process, and European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly believes that the time has come to bring Regulation 1049/2001 up to speed with digital times.

But also ‘civil society’ is heard. Thus, journalist Peter Teffer remains sceptical about the need for legislative reform, and we hear the experiences of corporate tax reform Martijn Nouwen, who studied the informal Code of Conduct group and fell off his chair when he learned that under standard protocol, various pivotal documents were periodically deleted.

The case for reform

EU Scream is presented and co-produced by James Kanter, who has a lengthy journalistic behind him, working inter alia for the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times, before starting up the blog in association with the EU Observer. Euractiv counts his twitter account among the most influential EU analysts.

In November 2021, Kanter moderated an event in Brussels by the European Ombudsman on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of Regulation 1049/2001. At this event, the Ombudsman made the case for reopening the revision of the legislation, and for investigating the possibility of appointing an information commissioner with binding decision powers in the area of access to documents.

The podcast episode Transparency, Interrupted can be accessed here.

This post was amended to correctly represent the Ombudsman’s argument, which was for exploring binding powers to be given to a newly to-be-established independent information commissioner rather than her own office.