statewatch-off on 10 Oct 2000 13:42:56 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] The EU and open governments - a leauge table

EXCLUSIVE REPORT: Statewatch Audit on EU openness shows Germany and France pushing for greater secrecy and the UK ‘sitting on the fence’.

The Council of the European Union has drafted its position on the new code of public access to EU documents (effectively rules on freedom of information in the EU). This is in response to the new code proposed by the European Commission. The Council’s “common position” represents the views of the governments of the 15 EU member states.

Statewatch has carried an Audit of the amendments proposed by the member states to the Council’s draft position. Each country is ranked according to whether their proposals would provide for greater public access to information or an increase in EU secrecy. It shows that Germany and France lead the way in calling for even greater secrecy, the UK is “sitting on the fence” and Denmark, Netherlands, Finland and Sweden are trying to improve the Council’s draft common position.

Denmark [most pro-openness]














Germany [most pro-secrecy]

[The table is based on the proposals made by each member state and an “eight key criteria test” - for details see full story.]

The Council’s position is to be adopted at the General Affairs Council on the 20 November. Those hoping for greater openness and with it an increase in democratic standards may be disappointed, since as it stands the Council’s position is worse than the Commission’s proposal. Tony Bunyan, Statewatch editor, commented:

“It seems for most EU governments ‘openness’ makes good ‘spin’ but they do not really believe in it - as the Council has said too much openness “could fuel public discussion”.”

[“Could fuel public discussion” was the reason given to Mr Bunyan when he was refused access by the Council General Secretariat to the document containing the Council’s draft position and the member states proposals. Mr Bunyan’s application for the document was made under the existing code of access - it would not even fall within the scope of the new code and access could be automatically refused with the justification that the EU instiutions need “space to think”. The Council’s draft common position was leaked to Statewatch]

The exclusive Statewatch Audit and analysis is available from Statewatch News Online, URL:


In a separate but not unrelated development, the Swedish government has joined the Netherlands and the European Parliament in calling for legal action against the Council following their decision to amend the existing code of access in July to accommodate NATO demands for greater secrecy in security and "non-military crisis management" cooperation (the “Solana Decision”). Comprehensive background is available on the Statewatch website.

OTHER EU NEWS: Fair Trials Abroad criticises increasing imbalance between EU security agenda and the protection of civil liberties

In response to the European Commission's communication on the EU's programme of measures to implement the principle of EU- wide mutual recognition of judgements and court orders in criminal cases. FTA set out their ongoing concern about the effect on suspect's rights and civil liberties. They also call for an immediate halt to EU legislation that increases "international law enforcement powers" until safeguards are in place. Steven Jakobi, Director of FTA commented:

"The Post Tampere process is currently perpetuating and increasing the imbalance between "Security" matters of prosecution and crime prevention on the one hand, and "Freedom" matters of defence and the protection of civil liberties on the other. The very fabric of Justice is at stake. We would urge both national and European Parliamentarians to oppose any increase in International law enforcement powers, under whatever guise they appear, until visible progress is made in safeguarding Citizens rights".

Full story and background to the Council's mutual recognition programme are available on Statewatch News Online.
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