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Little steps towards less transparency in the EU Commission?

Sometimes I get confused. As you know from previous blog posts, I have requested the “Results of [a] weekly meeting of Chefs de cabinet” of the European Commission, the penultimate before the summer break.*  But there may be more to this matter than just a case of a freedom of information request:

Until the summer break, these results of Chefs de cabinet meetings were documented in standard Commission Secretariat documents in the form “SEC(year)doc_number”. You can see this for example on page 4 of the last meeting agenda (PDF) of the Commission before the summer break.

Usually, documents of this style (“SEC”) can be searched in the Commission’s public register of documents, so if you search “SEC(2011) 1969” mentioned in the meeting protocol linked above, you’ll get the name of the document and a button where you can request it.

After the summer break, that is after my request and my appeal, the documents containing the “Results of weekly meetings of Chef de cabinets” are now referred to as “RCC(year)doc_number” (see meeting agenda (PDF) of first Commission meeting after the summer break), changing a years-long practice.

Now I don’t know whether the fact that I requested such a document (and appealed the refusal to grant access) and the change in denomination are linked. Yet, the problem with this change is that you can’t search for RCC documents in the public register of documents of the Commission. Hence, unless you consult the meeting agenda(s) of the Commission, you won’t know that these documents exist.

I think this is a dubious move by the Commission, in particular non that is in favour of more transparency. I’m still waiting to know whether I can get the document requested and, if yes, how much of the document I will be allowed to see. With this RCC-move, I now feel like I witness a double intransparency, one that concerns me and my research and one that concerns the general public.

But maybe there is a good explanation why after years of having Chefs de cabinet records in SEC documents they are now in RCC documents and why these are not searchable in the public register…

* I haven’t got it yet even though the legal time period has passed, but I was informed a decision may be expected by the end of October.

Picture by tame_alien licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.0

4 Responses to Little steps towards less transparency in the EU Commission?

  1. avatar André says:

    Let me guess what they will answer…”this is a purely administrative decision. It has been taken years ago and it would become extremely expensive to change it back to regular now.”

  2. avatar Ronny Patz says:

    Well, I think you may be right with the first sentence of your answer, but the rest would be too obviously wrong to get it from the Commission.

  3. avatar Dagmawi Elehu says:

    As you might know, in Sweden the Public and secrecies law, the specific law extending the fundamental law making public access to official records the default, the role of registries is specifically highlighted.
    Law (2009:400) Chapter 4
    2§ Every agency shall create a description that gives information about
    1. the organisation of the agency and its business in the purpose of making it easier to search for public records,
    2. registries, indexes or other methods or searching of the public records of the agency,
    3. technical tools that the individual can use at the agency to access public records,
    4. who at the agency that can give further information about the public records at the agency, their use and ways to search for them,
    5. what secrecy regulations that the agency usually apply regarding their records,
    6. information that the agency regularly collects from or gives to others as well as how and when that occurs, and
    7. the agency’s right to sell personal data.

    In the description information shall be left out if that is necessary for the description to be kept available for the public.

    Registers are also considered public records for the purpose of the fundamental law. Also in the 3rd section of 1 § of Chapter 4 it says:
    Further an agency shall take into specific consideration
    1. that the individual shall be given good opportunities to search public records,
    2. that it should be obvious when information has been added to a public record and, if they have been changed or “weeded” at which point in time that happened, and
    3. that public records should no contain abbreviations, codes or similar that can make transparency more difficult according to the fundamental law on the right of printing.
    Quite a difference from the attitude and practice of the EU institutions…

  4. Pingback: No April Fools’ Day joke: Waiting eight months for one EU document | Polscieu

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