24 MAR 2011
EU member states are reluctant to reveal whether or not they support proposals by the European Commission to overhaul EU transparency law, a media investigation carried out this week reveals, triggering fears that the European Union is becoming less accountable to citizens.
Many of the documents that arrive in Helen Darbishire's mailbox have important parts blacked out, and many more don't arrive at all. That may be unusual for freedom-of-information requests, particularly given that the subject matter is government transparency.
Darbishire has asked the European Union's 27 member states for documents showing whether they support proposals by the European Commission to overhaul EU transparency law.
The Commission's proposed changes would limit public access only to those EU documents that have been "formally transmitted": a move transparency groups say would curtail the public's ability to track the lawmaking process.
"It would basically mean the European Union is less accountable," said Darbishire, of the transparency group Access Info Europe. "It will make it harder to know what the EU is doing and to verify the influence of lobby groups and others."
Responding to her requests, most EU member states refused to release anything, citing ongoing negotiations.
In the papers that were released, the names of countries proposing to change the transparency law were hidden. Darbishire was disappointed, and the EU's second-highest court ruled on Tuesday (22 March) that member states had acted wrongly.
"If citizens are to be able to exercise their democratic rights, they must be in a position to follow in detail the decision-making process," the EU General Court said.
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