Fidest – Agenzia giornalistica/press agency

Quotidiano di informazione – Anno 31 n° 301

Transparency: better access to documents and protection of whistleblowers needed in the EU

Posted by fidest press agency su domenica, 23 febbraio 2014

The widest possible public access to documents is needed to effectively allow citizens to comment on all aspects of EU activity, says a report adopted by the Civil Liberties Committee on Thursday. MEPs call on the Council to finally move forward with the revision of the regulation on access to documents and for a Transparency officer in each EU institution. They also urge for better protection of whistleblowers.
The Lisbon Treaty lays down the fundamental right of access to documents, MEPs stress, recalling that “any decision denying access to documents must be based on clearly and strictly defined legal exceptions, accompanied by reasoned and specific justification, allowing the citizen to understand the denial of access and to make effective use of the legal remedies available”.Citizens have a right to know how the decision-making process works, how their representatives act, hold them accountable and to know how public money is allocated and spent, stresses the report.The EU legislation on access to documents is still not being properly applied by the EU’s administration, says the committee, noting that the “exceptions of Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 [on public access to documents] are being applied routinely rather than of exceptionally”. It calls on the institutions, bodies and agencies to strictly apply this regulation, taking full account of the body of case-law on this matter. MEPs express their disappointment with the fact that since December 2011, when Parliament adopted its first reading position on the revision of the regulation, “no progress has been made, since the Council and the Commission did not seem ready to embark on substantive negotiations”. They call on the Council to finally move forward with the revision and on both institutions to agree on a new instrument that provides significantly more transparency.The Civil Liberties Committee calls on all the institutions to evaluate and, where necessary, review their internal arrangements for reporting wrongdoing, and calls for the protection of whistleblowers. “In a healthy democracy citizens should not have to rely on whistleblowers in order to ensure transparency of their governments’ competences and activities”, it adds.
The Commission should table a proposal to protect whistleblowers “not only morally, but also financially in order to properly protect and support whistleblowers as part of the democratic system”, says the text.
MEPs recommend that each EU institution or body appoint from within its management structures a Transparency Officer, to be responsible for compliance and for improving practices. EU institutions should also put in place “public document registers” with clear and accessible structures and good search functionality, they add.
International agreements, such as the envisaged Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the US, have binding effects and impact on EU laws. Documents related to them should therefore be public in principle, says the committee.

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