Secrecy Surrounds Improved Rules of Public Access
On November 27th Sweden’s chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers comes to an end. On the same day, the Council is expected to approve a convention concerning access to public documents.
In a paradoxical gesture, the processing of the matter is being held secret and there is no mention of the vote on the Council of Europe’s agenda; despite the fact that Sweden, before taking the chairmanship, had promised to work for increased transparency.
There has been no outside access to the ongoing work with the convention. The secrecy has made it difficult both for parliamentarians, who represent civil society, and for journalists to obtain information concerning the decisions.
– The ongoing work to formulate convention proposals has been very covert which is not in tune with Sweden’s ambitions nor with the aim of the convention, which is to reinforce protection of The Principle of Public Access. We wish to know what Sweden has actually achieved to increase transparency within the Council of Europe, says Robert Hårdh, Secretary General of Swedish Helsinki Committee.
On October 3rd The Council of Europe’s parliament issued a critical statement arguing that the convention must be rewritten. This statement from the people’s representatives has been dismissed by a subgroup of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers. Several individual organisations, among them the Swedish Helsinki Committee, have also pointed to limitations in the current draft.
– It is not acceptable that Sweden, with its long tradition of The Principle of Public Access, should take part in secret processes, says Helen Darbshire, chief executive of the organisation Access Info Europe. Sweden’s reputation as a sponsor of transparency is in danger if the much-criticised convention is approved in its present form
Sweden has held the chairmanship of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers since May. It ends on November 27th.
Tags: Access to information, Committee of Ministers, and Council of Europe.