EU Council upholds freedom of information requests

With so many states using the COVID-19 crisis to suspend right to information laws it is promising that the EU council is upholding its timeframes. Hopefully other governments will follow as it is so vital to be able to access information right now on the health crisis and regarding issues linked with emergency powers. See the below press release from Access Info for more information:

EU Council maintains timeframes for responding to access to documents requests

Click here to read the article online

Madrid, 21 April 2020- Access Info today welcomed the announcement by the Council of the European Union that it will continue to process requests for documents, doing its best to adhere to the 15 working day timeframe, during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

A message from the Secretariat General’s Transparency team reads:

The General Secretariat of the Council continues to support the political work, with some key services having to be present. Thanks to digital technology, the majority of staff remains fully operational. For the Transparency team, this means that we continue to deal with all requests for access to documents as usual, simply now by teleworking. Some delays may happen as regards the assessment of classified documents, but access to those documents can also be granted, according to legal criteria and within the best possible delays. Similarly, our service of Public Info continues to answer citizens on any request for information which is submitted to us.

Access Info notes that this is a good practice. It is of concern that many countries around Europe have suspended the timeframes for responding to information requests, often as part of emergency decrees that suspend almost all administrative timeframes.

Access Info has criticised the suspension of timeframes for processing requests and is calling on all governments to make use of digital technologies to stay as open as possible to the public, to respond to requests, and to publish information proactively.

The right to information is essential to combatting the pandemic and to ensuring a just recovery, as it allows citizens to follow decision making, including at the EU level, to know what is going on and to participate in debate in an informed way ,” said Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe.

The Council of the EU issued the proactive notification on 20 April 2020 to relevant stakeholders, along with a list of resources for countering false information.

The recognition of the importance of transparency at this crucial time, and this leadership from the Council, is something that all EU bodies and agencies and all national governments should follow ,” added Darbishire.

For more information, please contact:

Paula Domínguez, Communications Officer | Access Info Europe paula@access-info.org +34 637 226 609

Helen Darbishire, Executive Director | Access Info Europe helen@access-info.org +34 637 226 609

https://www.access-info.org/blog/2020/04/21/eu-council-maintains-timeframes-responding-access-requests/