An alliance of transparency advocates has accused the European Union of restricting its rules on freedom of information.
Proposals by the European Commission that will “substantially reduce the number of public documents” available upon request are expected to be approved in the coming weeks, according to the coalition, which includes 180 human rights organizations, transparency pressure groups and journalist unions.
The proposed legislation, put forward in 2008, specifies that only formally transmitted documents would be released at the public’s request. It will allow member states to restrict access to documents on their communications with EU institutions, as well as on disputes initiated by the commission against national capitals.
The alliance fears that documents informally passed between European policymakers will be inaccessible to the public under the proposed legislation. Policymakers may also be encouraged to avoid formal transmission of documents to prevent public access.
“Everyone in Europe has the right to know what their elected representatives are doing with the power entrusted to them and how the public’s money is being spent,” said Helen Darbishire, director of Access Info Europe, a group of lawyers that train citizens how to demand documents from their governments. “Our representatives should be fighting to extend the rights of citizens, not reduce them.”
The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties and Justice and Home Affairs Committee tackled the legislation on Feb. 1. Amendments will be considered in the coming weeks, EUobserver reports.