European Ombudsman censures Commission over lack of access to information

29th January 2009. The European Ombudsman has censured the European Commission over its failure to register the vast majority of its documents. The censure motion is a response to complaints from Statewatch and the European Parliament about the number of important Commission documents that remain unregistered.

According to the Commission, the establishment of a comprehensive register is impossible at this point in time, mainly because of the use of incompatible registers in its different departments. The Ombudsman was unconvinced. He considered the Commission’s failure to comply with its legal obligation to establish such a register as maladministration.

Tony Bunyan of Statewatch commented that, ‘We welcome the decision of the European Ombudsman and the support of the European Parliament in our bid to get the European Commission to fulfil its obligations under EU law to maintain a proper register of its documents.’

He went on to say that access to documents is the life-blood of a democracy. It allows citizens, civil society and parliaments to find out what is being proposed, so that they have an informed debate and make their views known before measures are adopted or implemented.

However throughout some 26 months of correspondence, states Bunyan, the Commission has remained intransigent. It does not agree with the definition of a ‘document’ as set out in EU law, and does not agree that it is obliged to list all documents on its public register as set out in EU law. It is this state of affairs which has lead to the European Ombudsman’s censure motion of 29th January 2009.

For more information visit the Statewatch site at http://www.statewatch.org/news/2009/jan/07sw-ombs-com-register-complaint.htm