Friday

3rd Feb 2023

Brussels hits out at 'nutty NGOs' and corporate sharks

  • Archives at the EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf: how much access is too much? (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

The European Commission has said EU freedom of information rules should be tightened up because corporate lawyers and NGOs abuse the system.

Its spokesman, Antony Gravili, told EUobserver on Wednesday (6 June) that most requests to see internal EU documents come from "lawyers for big corporations" and "nutty NGOs" instead of concerned EU citizens.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"Lawyers involved in big competition cases try to get commercially sensitive information through the back door ... If they got it, the victims would go straight to court to sue us for millions and they would win," he said.

"Nutty NGOs say things like: 'Please send us details of every email, every phonecall or note ever written at any level on this subject from 2001 to 2006' ... When a desk officer writes a paper, they want to see it after he's written the first sentence before going on his coffee break," he added.

"As soon as our response comes, it goes in the bin and they send their next request. They think its funny to waste officials' time."

The commission in 2008 put out draft new rules to replace a 2001 regulation on the subject.

It put out another draft in 2011 to extend existing rules to all EU institutions, such as the European Central Bank and EU agencies.

Both bills are being blocked by the EU parliament, which says they are a step backward on transparency, however.

"We have said over and over that every document, every single sentence that would have been released under the old regime would still be released under the new one ... We are just trying to bring extra clarity. The debate is infantile and some people need to grow up," Gravili said.

Diplomats from EU member states will on Friday debate a new Danish EU presidency proposal designed to end the stalemate.

A contact familiar with the Danes' latest draft said it has more relaxed wording on documents in competition cases, infringement procedures, appointment of senior officials and legal advice from EU institutions.

While the previous draft spoke of "block exemptions" for the papers, the new version says the documents "shall be presumed as being" out of bounds if the EU institutions can demonstrate it would cause harm to release them, shifting the burden of proof from applicants to officials.

A small minority - Estonia, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden - are pushing for what they say is more transparency. But the majority of member states want to see tighter rules.

A Swedish contact noted: "We still don't like it [the new draft], but it's better." An Estonian source said: "We do agree that it is better. But we should keep in mind that the Lisbon Treaty clearly demands more transparency."

If member states endorse the new Danish draft on Friday, Denmark will resume talks with MEPs next week.

EU lobby register still riddled with errors

The EU's lobby register remains riddled with errors, with pro-transparency campaigners demanding better data and mandatory rules. The latest findings come amid a raft of proposals by the European Parliament president to weed out corruption in the wake of Qatargate.

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us