Crucial flaw in transparency report

///European Voice (Letters to the Editor)
the European Parliament is going to vote next week on an important report on the developments in the field of openness in the EU. I want to congratulate especially Michael Cashman, the rapporteur, for clarity and vigour to promote open government further. [:]

I would, however, like to issue a word of warning about one particular well-meaning, but counterproductive, proposal which seems to have been included in the report against the advice of Cashman himself.

Paragraph 16 of the resolution takes note of the fact that the member states depart from requirements of openness when they act as individual member states and not as Council members. Thus, according to the report,legislation should be harmonized in order to guarantee European citizens “the same or comparable rights to openness with regard to both the Union and to their own member state if it affects European competences”.

The problem is real. The regulation on public access to documents (1049/2001) does allow the member states this schizophrenic choice as for the role they assume in the Council. Article 3 includes the Member States in the definition of “third parties” whose documents are not in the scope of transparency. To choose the role of a third party in relation to the Council gives a member state a convenient way to hide from the obligation of transparency when it does not suit them.

The solution to the problem is not the harmonization of legislation, but the clarification of the definition of “third parties” in the regulation. As a consequence, member states could not any more escape transparency when this would indeed “affect European competences”.

The request to harmonize the existing national laws on access to information would risk to erase the best practices among the present and future Member States. This would clearly be in the interest of those who believe that the “folly of openness” has already gone too far.

MEP 1995-2003

Member of the Grand Committee
of the Finnish Parliament