Archive for the ‘transparency’ Category

A few Members of the European Parliament started a Written Declaration for open and collaborative government. Gianni Pittella, Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, Marisa Matias, Katarína Neveďalová, Marietje Schaake. Written Declarations are documents which could get co-signed by other Members of Parliament. They get adopted when they reach a majority. Written Declarations could be perceived as petitions within the European Parliament and civil society groups often pressure MEPs to sign a Written Declaration that suits their interests. Here it would be rather difficult to get them to endorse the document WD 0019/2012. The reason is simple: instead of “unrestricted” they drafted “current”. That single phrase makes the declaration appear like a Trojan horse.

Written declaration on open and collaborative government
The European Parliament,
– having regard to Rule 123 of its Rules of Procedure,
A. whereas the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Aarhus Convention enshrine the right to good administration, the right to have access to documents and the right to impart information;
B. whereas citizens have increasing expectations of institutions in terms of transparency, credibility and efficiency;
C. whereas interactivity should be strongly encouraged between citizens and governments, as well as European institutions, to further enhance trust and transparency;
D. whereas Parliament aims to lead by example in providing access to information and cooperating with citizens;
1. Asserts that public sector information is a public good and must be freely available and permanently accessible online in a machine-readable, searchable and current format, consistent with personal data protection and national security interests;
2. Asserts that the Commission’s Open Data Strategy is an important step towards greater transparency and stresses that Member States need to develop such policies for transparency and accountability;
3. Asserts that the public must have the opportunity to participate in policy-making, information collection, policy development and decision-making;
4. Asks Member States and governments to collaborate with civil society to develop processes and platforms for meaningful citizen engagement in consultation and policy innovation, and report on the results;
5. Supports the Commission in developing further policies and platforms on open data and collaborative governance;
6. Instructs its President to forward this declaration, together with the names of the signatories, to the Commission and Member States of the European Union.


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The judgement in case Case T‑529/09 (Sophie in ’t Veld vs. Council of the European Union, Commission) is presented. That is huge for document access practitioners.

For document access requests most useful:

” Thus, if the institution concerned decides to refuse access to a document which it has been asked to disclose, it must, in principle, explain how disclosure of that document could specifically and actually undermine the interest protected by the exception – among those provided for in Article 4 of Regulation No 1049/2001 – upon which it is relying (see Sweden v MyTravel and Commission, paragraph 18 above, paragraph 76 and the case-law cited).”

I argued that several times in the past.

In that regard, the mere fact that a document concerns an interest protected by an exception cannot justify application of that exception. Such application may, in principle, be justified only if the institution has previously assessed, firstly, whether access to the document would specifically and actually undermine the protected interest and, secondly, in the circumstances referred to in Article 4(2) and (3) of Regulation No 1049/2001, whether there was no overriding public interest in disclosure. Further, the risk of a protected interest being undermined must be reasonably foreseeable and not purely hypothetical (see Case T‑36/04 API v Commission [2007] ECR II‑3201, paragraph 54 and the case-law cited).

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The MEP F. Castex asked about the public access to ACTA preparatory documents. By international standards access to negotiating documents is required for the interpretation of legal documents in Courts (historical / teleological standard method of interpretation):

Parliamentary questions 14 March 2011 E-002345/2011 Question for written answer to the Commission Rule 117 Françoise Castex (S&D)

Access to the preparatory works of the ACTA Treaty

With regard to the response of 15 December 2010 to my written question on ACTA (P‑9179/2010), I would like to make the following observations.

As the Commission has confirmed, the EU has ratified the Vienna Convention on compliance with international treaties and the ACTA agreement will be applied in accordance with this Convention.

Article 32 of the Vienna Convention refers to the ‘Supplementary means of interpretation’ which require access to ‘supplementary means of interpretation, including the preparatory work of the treaty and the circumstances of its conclusion, in order to confirm the meaning …’ if the text ‘leaves the meaning ambiguous or obscure’.

In accordance with the Vienna Convention I would like to know whether Parliament will have access to the preparatory works of the ACTA Treaty while in the process of formulating an opinion and with sufficient time before Parliament gives its opinion on the Treaty?

Parliamentary questions 20 April 2011 (E-002345/2011) Answer given by Mr De Gucht on behalf of the Commission

Following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, precise arrangements were made between the Commission and the Parliament in order to ensure that the Parliament is fully informed, at all stages of trade negotiations, of the evolution of those negotiations, so that at the end, it is able to provide its informed consent to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). In the case of the ACTA negotiations, this included the communication to the Parliament of the different versions of the text which were issued after each negotiating round, as well as reports of the negotiating rounds. Additionally, in the numerous Commission replies to oral and written questions and in its replies to two EP Recommendations and one Declaration, there are detailed considerations and explanations about the negotiations at its different stages. These documents constitute the key preparatory work of the treaty and provide detailed information about the circumstances of its conclusion.

In addition to providing these preparatory documents, the Commission services have provided dedicated briefings to interested Members of the European Parliament on all aspects of the negotiations, after the various negotiating rounds and remain available for any additional clarifications deemed necessary.

Of course Castex had a case here. It is unacceptable that the preparatory documents are still not disclosed.

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On March 7, 2012, the US Trade Representative Ron Kirk testified before the Senate Finance Committee. Senator Wyden (D-OR) asked him about the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), in particular the transparency issues.

(watch the audience) – “Rough Transcript” by A. Stamoulis

In particular it is interesting for me that Ron Kirk explains the practice to enable Treaty insights for cleared advisors while the ordinary Americans were locked out from viewing the documents. He also argued no one would want to negotiate a trade agreement when the documents are put out.

I watched the whole session, not only Wyden’s part you find in the video. What suprises me is the superficiality of discussions in the United States, the bias towards opening foreign markets as a job creation effort around Senators constituency issues like poultry, pork and shirts. The appraisals and the spirit of formally agreeing with each other and the offers to “work together” on issues.

It is interesting to compare that with a meeting in the European Parliament Trade committee (24 Feb 2010) where EU negotiator Luc Devigne explained the document lobby leak issue and defended a lack of public transparency:

It should be reminded that this is an[!] international negotiations and that the parties um around the table have said that they did not want that their negotiating positions which belong to them want[!] to be revealed. We cannot betray, if you want, these kinds of rules. .. But one thing that I want to make clear because, I think, it was Mrs Weird [?] saying that lobbyists have documents. Which – I don’t know where they would come from. But certainly not from the Commission.  We do not share any document with any lobbyist. That is very clear.

In the hearing Ron Kirk openly confessed that they have leaked the joint documents to cleared non-governmental advisors. These were documents kept from the American public and the European public despite Treaty obligations of the European Commission under Article 15(1)  TFEU to conduct their work “as openly as possible”. It is still unclear to me under which legal base from the Treaties the EU Commission entered confidential deliberations on the ACTA agreement. Certainly it is not acceptable that documents got leaked and the first text were later published by the notorious Wikileaks site, not public bodies. On both sides of the Atlantic the public should be able to see what legal provisions are being negotiated and I congratulate Mr. Wyden for his effort to acknowledge a change of the game. In his own words:

There is no question, that is the way it used to work. And I think. What the public is saying, we got to do better…

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Die Österreicher berichten im Detail zu meinem “gescheiterten” zweiten Dokumentantrag. Und noch viel mehr. Dazu:

  • Bescheidenheit: Ich habe den Antrag als reine Privatperson gestellt und nicht im Namen des FFII, wo ich Mitglied bin. Sonst hätte ich wohl auf Englisch formuliert. Der Ante Wessels vom FFII macht eine prima Arbeit zu ACTA, der FFII hat ein eigenes Blog. Erst letzte Woche hat der FFII ca. 100 000 seiner Unterstützer angeschrieben. FFII Präsident Benjamin Henrion war schon bei der ersten Anhörung zu ACTA zugegen und vertrat dort die Interessen von Software-Fachleuten. Danach auch immer präsent. Dem FFII Engagement ist es indirekt zu verdanken, wenn Bestimmungen zur Patentdurchsetzung für ACTA gar nicht erst erwogen wurden. Freut die Software-Leute. Medikamente und Downloader wäre dagegen z.B. keine Baustelle für den FFII.
  • Ich kenne die Mitteilung von Erik aus dem Dezember mit den ganzen Dokumenten. Nur hat das nichts mit dem Recht des Bürgers aus EG/1049/2001 zu tun, sondern war eine Entscheidung vom zuständigen Ausschuss. Es kann sein, dass die Entscheidung wieder zurückgenommen worden ist aufgrund irgendwelcher Einwendungen. Davon hatte ich gesprochen. Deshalb hab ich es nicht verlinkt, weil unbekannt ist, ob das noch gewünscht ist, dass diese Dokumente öffentlich sind. Ich respektiere das.
  • Ich halte relativ wenig von “Leaks”, das wäre es hier auch nicht. Werd ich bei Gelegenheit noch einmal erklären. Ich möchte besseren offiziellen Dokumentzugang erlangen. Dokumentzugang ist ein Recht der Bürger aus den Verträgen. Daneben können die Institutionen die Dokumente aus anderen Gründen öffentlich machen.
  • Ich erhalte viele Nachrichten von Personen, die selbst Zugangsanträge gestellt haben. Ich glaube es gibt da erheblich Beratungsbedarf.

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Unglaublich und irre. EP-Vizepräsident Rainer Wieland verweigert meinen “Zweitantrag” auf Zugang zum Rechtsgutachten des Handelsausschuss (INTA) zu ACTA. Er bestätigt die Argumente von Klaus Welle, die mir so lächerlich erschienen, dass ich überhaupt einen Zweitantrag zum Dokument gestellt habe. Dass nämlich die Offenlegung eines Rechtsgutachtens (SJ-0501/11) zur Interpretation eines bereits unterzeichneten Abkommens ACTA die Ratifizierung beeinträchtigen könne, und folglich Beziehungen mit externen Unterzeichnerstaaten. Deshalb muss das geheim bleiben.

Der Witz wird ja noch viel köstlicher: Vor Weihnachten bereits hat der INTA Ausschuss beschlossen das Dokument offen zugänglich zu machen, und Abgeordnete haben es zirkulieren lassen. Danach erst später kam die negative Antwort von Klaus Welle, zu der ich dann einen “Zweitantrag” stellte, und mir Klaus Welle im Sinne der “günstigen Auslegung” die Möglichkeit zu einem zweiten Zweitantrag eröffnete. Mal gucken ob ich jetzt noch beim EUGH Klage erhebe oder mich beim EU Bürgerbeauftragten beschwere um allgemeinen Zugang zu dem Dokument zu erhalten.

Sinnvoll wäre es, denn die Argumente sind irre. Ich bin der Auffassung, dass Rechtsgutachten zu Rechtsfragen allgemeiner Natur grundsätzlich offengelegt werden sollten. Das Argument, nach der sich das berühmte TURCO-Urteil nur auf Legislativvorhaben aber nicht auf Rechtsgutachten über die Ratifizierbarkeit internationaler Abkommen mit Rechtswirkung beziehe, das sollte doch eigentlich der EUGH mal unter die Lupe nehmen. EuGH, lohnt sich das? Was kostet das? Feedback an mich von alten Hasen erwünscht.

Das gesuchte Dokument ist das Rechtsgutachten SJ-0501/11 und Kollegen haben mich darauf hingewiesen, dass ich evtl. INTA und JURI durcheinander gebracht haben kann. Es gibt noch ein anderes SJ-0661/11. Heute in der Pressekonferenz haben die Abgeordneten ja wenn ich mich recht erinnere sogar auf die Inhalte der Gutachten Bezug genommen. Nun wird wieder Geheimniskrämerei betrieben statt die Rechtsfragen offen zu erörtern. Ich habe z.B. bis heute nicht verstanden auf welcher Rechtsgrundlage die EU-Kommission Geheimhaltungsvereinbarungen schliesst oder wie das mit dem “Mixed Agreement” genau funktioniert.

Ich erinnere mich an das erste Stakeholder-Treffen, ich war da, wo die Kommission ihre Pläne mit ACTA vorstellte, was mir wie ein Perpetuum Mobile des EU-Rechts vorkam. Ein Mitarbeiter aus dem Parlament fragte, ob es ein Verhandlungsmandat gebe, ja sagte Devigne, das wurde schon vor seit 2 Monaten im Rat abgestimmt. Soviel zum Thema “Information des Parlaments”… Das Parlament hat damals 2008 im Susta-Bericht richtig gefordert, alles offen zu legen. Bis heute ist das nicht geschehen. Mit einer ganz langsamen Lernkurve und viele Anfragen haben die Parlamentarier schließlich herausgefunden, dass ACTA ihre Kompetenzen aus Lissabon bei der Strafrechtsharmonisierung umgeht. Das ist alles sehr tricky. Darüber sollte man eine möglichst breite Debatte unter Europarechtlern führen. Zwei Anwälte, drei Meinungen ist normal. Die sollen aber auf den Tisch. Das SJ-0661/11 sagt übrigens, dass vieles europarechtlich unproblematisch sei. Das sind Argumente zu objektiven rechtlichen Sachverhalten, die diskutiert werden sollen.

Add EUGH: Möglichkeit habe ich erwähnt, weil es interessantes Case Law schaffen könnte, eine Art Turco+. Jeder Richter am EUGH versteht, dass er – wenn er die Rechtskonformität eines Abkommens mit den Verträgen beurteilen soll – keine Rücksicht darauf nehmen darf, ob die Auffassung des Gerichts anderen Staaten behagt oder die Ratifizierung stört. Jeder Richter versteht, dass man zu so allgemeinen Sachverhalten eine offene Rechtsdebatte führen muss.

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Ron Paz found a list of Council working Groups(not sure whether I mentioned it here before) and is digging into the advisory groups of the European Commission. The Commission fully discloses the groups but offers only a burdensome and complicated database. According to Ron Paz the Commission refused to release the flat data under 1049 transparency rules.

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In its recast of the Public Access to Documents implementation the Commission proposed a remarkable change to Article 4 (exemptions), paragraph 2:

2. The institutions shall refuse access to a document where disclosure would undermine the protection of:
(a) commercial interests of a natural or legal
person,; including intellectual property,
(b) intellectual property rights;

It is quite important to get the legal difference of what appears to be an editorial fix, and how it limits access to documents. Right now Commercial Interests are overriding transparency (commercial interests include IP), in the future we would get a new broad standalone item (protection of) “IPR” which would comprise moral rights. I was wondering what the specific reason for this dramatic change was. In a Council document we get the explanaition why former Commissioner Margot Wallström introduced that to COM(2008) 229:

“Cion. explained that the provision concerning the protection of “commercial interests” and “intellectual property” had been split into two separate exceptions for the following reasons: As set out in Article 4 (4) of the recasting proposal (see below), the public interest in disclosure of information concerning emissions into the environment overrides by definition the protection of commercial interests, but not necessarily the protection of intellectual property rights. This means in practice, that there is no need for a balancing of interests, in as far as the principle laid down in Article 4 (4) second sentence applies, whereas such a balancing should be made, where disclosure could harm the protection of intellectual property rights or other interests to be protected under Article 4 (2) and 4 (3).”

In other words, they created a broader IPR exemption to transparency to make it more difficult to obtain information and found that IPR as an argument could be easier applied to deny access to documents. I wonder why Parliament under its rapporteur MEP Michael Cashman did not attempt to revert it.

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Transparency Tank

Impressive! Finnish MEP Heidi Hautala published her draft report on the annual transparency communication


The document is quite unusual in its quality and detail. A must read.

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A document kept secret so far by the Council, a legal analysis on the unitary patent enhanced cooperation, was made available to me today in response to my document access secondary application (cmp. EC/1049/2001). My arguments for the secondary apllication were the ECJ turco judgement and the general character of the legal matter.

While the original document request relates to the German version of the legal analysis the Council secretariat kindly also made available the English version to me. In the Council register you still find a redacted version, but the document below would be made available through the register in other languages; ~ early next week they told.

Compatibility of possible enhanced cooperation in the field of patents with the internal market and the other provisions of the Treaties

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