Fifteen years with access rules and still no register over documents to look for. Not only citizens, also governments are kept in the dark by the Commission, a new study on EU transparency shows.

The Commission refuses to give access to documents dealing with direct taxation. The issue is considered too sensitive to be known by the public and by member state governments. Documents from an expert group on direct EU taxation set up by the Commission are therefore not released. This is one example of how the Commission handles the EU rules on transparency known as regulation 1049/2001, which have been in force for 15 years.

Another case shows what can be learnt about the relations between the EU and Saudi Arabia, if you are not an EU insider. A third case describes a step-by-step approach to find out if President Jean-Claude Juncker handles his emails differently than former US secretary of state, now presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The very few

The fairly detailed description of the three cases is meant to help and perhaps inspire others to make use of the transparency rules and forms a section in the report ”Transparency through tinted windows” written by Staffan Dahllöf and published by the think tank OEIC (Organisation for European Interstate Cooperation).

Other sections in the report cover the political and legal base for EU transparency, statistics on who uses the rules and in what way, and a do-it-yourself guide. It is a matter of fact that very few people use the possibilities given by the regulation considering the size of the EU population. Of those who do request access, only a minority are journalists. These findings are also discussed in the report.

The bigger threats

For those who have followed the development of transparency in the EU it does not come as a surprise that this legislation is not given from above once and for all. 
The regulation has been under pressure since 2008, when the Commission proposed a revision. This revision could jeopardise gained achievements but has fortunately been stalled thanks to resistance from the European Parliament.

However, other legislative initiatives, such as the forthcoming data protection regulation, might form an even bigger threat to transparency, as it will have an impact on the member states’ own administration.

The report was published in Swedish and translated into English.

Written by Staffan Dahllöf

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