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Procedure : 2013/2155(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0148/2014

Texts tabled :

A7-0148/2014

Debates :

PV 10/03/2014 - 16
CRE 10/03/2014 - 16

Votes :

PV 11/03/2014 - 9.25

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2014)0203

Debates
Monday, 10 March 2014 - Strasbourg Revised edition

16. Public access to documents 2011-2013 (short presentation)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  Presidente. - L'ordine del giorno reca la relazione di Sophia in 't Veld, a nome della commissione per le libertà civili, la giustizia e gli affari interni, sull'accesso del pubblico ai documenti (articolo 104, paragrafo 7, del regolamento) tra il 2011 e il 2013 (2013/2155(INI)) (A7-0148/2014).

 
  
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  Sophia in 't Veld, rapporteur. - Mr President, I am glad we have the opportunity for a brief exchange on the topic of transparency. I would like to start my intervention with a little quote from one of my favourite television series, called ‘Yes, Prime Minister’, where Sir Humphrey Appleby is saying to the Prime Minister: ‘open government, Prime Minister, freedom of information. We should always tell the press freely and frankly anything that they could easily find out some other way’. That is pretty much the attitude of the EU institutions today. Colleagues, we all know that the trust of the citizens is at an all-time low. So this is the moment when we need to make EU institutions more transparent and give the citizens more trust.

It is imperative that we develop a culture of transparency. For half a century, the European integration process has been driven by diplomats and civil servants – who did an excellent job, incidentally. But this is in the past. The diplomats have a culture of secrecy and discretion. They do not have a culture of transparency. Today we are in a political union in a Europe of citizens, and that means that transparency is a key element of the work that we are doing.

Before entering into the details of the report that has been adopted by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and that will be voted on tomorrow, I have just a few words on the EPP alternative motion for a resolution, which surprises me because it seems not to enhance transparency but actually to reduce it. I find this surprising, because there are also Members in the EPP Group who come from a tradition of transparency and openness. As a matter of fact, they are the very nationalities that have driven the process of transparency in the European Union.

If you read – I believe it is recital C in the EPP resolution – they do not seem to have a very high opinion of citizens’ intelligence, because it reads ‘the legislative decision-making process is very complex, with very many preparatory, confidential and secret documents being vital for the whole legislative process’. That reads a bit like ‘do not worry your pretty little heads over it, citizens. We will sort it out behind closed doors’. And here I quote yet again ‘Yes, Prime Minister’, where his assistant Bernard says to Sir Humphrey Appleby: ‘but surely the citizens of a democracy have a right to know’, and Sir Humphrey replies ‘no, they have a right to be ignorant. Knowledge only means complicity in guilt. Ignorance has a certain dignity’. Now that may be fair for a comedy on television, but it is surely not fair for the way that we do politics in the European Union.

Now, regarding the recommendations: first of all, of course we urgently need to revise Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, for which Mr Cashman here is rapporteur. This is really urgent, and it is unacceptable that the Commission and the Council keep blocking progress.

Secondly, transparency must be the rule and secrecy the exception. It seems that the practice today is the other way round. We have made a couple of very pragmatic and practical recommendations. For example, every EU institution, including this House, could appoint a transparency officer today. We have plenty of civil servants; we can appoint somebody to oversee the process, make recommendations and develop a culture of transparency.

Secondly, having extensive experience with litigation in Court, I feel that we need lighter procedures to challenge negative decisions on requests for access to documents. It is absurd that we are burdening the courts with years and years of litigation. Yes, President, I am coming to a conclusion.

Finally, we need better procedures for classifying documents and for requests for in-camera meetings. Now it is a very random process which is left to high-ranking civil servants to decide. We want a regulation laying down criteria for the classification of documents and an independent oversight body to monitor that process.

 
  
 

(Interventi su richiesta)

 
  
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  Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (PPE). - Mr[nbsp ]President, public access to documents is essential for enhancing citizens’ trust in our work and bridging the gap between them and the European Union. Citizens have the right to know how decisions on their behalf are taken and to make us accountable for them. They have the right to know how public money is allocated and spent.

At times when Europe seems complex and far away, it is even more important to show our full commitment to transparency and openness. I am proud that Parliament is at the forefront of this and that most of our official debates are public and web-streamed, but we need to do much more, especially with regard to the rest of the European institutions. That is why I call on the Commission, the Member States and the Council to move forward with the regulation to improve public access to the documents of all EU institutions.

Let us open our doors. Let us encourage citizens to participate more. Let us make them feel that they are part of a community where decisions are taken for them in a democratic way. Let us continue to work together for a more democratic and transparent Europe.

 
  
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  Michael Cashman (S&D). - Mr President, can I congratulate Sophie on her excellent work, which I am pleased to say follows the revision that I have tried to undertake on behalf of Parliament. It is sad that, despite big compromises by Parliament, this is still blocked in Council and by the Commission. But I am hopeful that when we look at Sophie’s report, which I think goes a bit further (which – if you allow me, Sophie – is a bit more avant garde), it will send a message to the Council and the Commission that Parliament, far from backing way and taking perhaps a less moderate position, is increasing its demand for openness and transparency.

It is a great shame, but not a surprise, that parts of the EPP have tried to undermine this report – my revision, that is, and indeed the whole report – because what we need is more transparency, not less. I say to those elements – and Ms Sommer in particular – what are you afraid of? Where is there something to be afraid of in engaging your citizens? If you are afraid of democracy then please give up this job and find another, because democracy is all about accountability.

Let me finish on this: we need to look at one of the problems that was not envisaged, and that is the burden on NGOs of continuous and systematic requests of documents which undermine them and their ability to do their work.

I commend this report to the House and ask you to reject the alternative motion for a resolution, which does not have the interests of democracy at heart.

 
  
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  Dubravka Šuica (PPE). - Gospodine predsjedniče, (početak govora nerazumljiv) povjerenje građana je na vrlo niskoj razini i stoga je vrlo važna transparentnost. Međutim, koliko je meni poznato u državama članicama postoji zakon o pravu na informiranje i temeljem tog zakona o pravu na informiranje građani imaju dostupnost svih dokumenata. Nadam se da je tako i da bi trebalo biti i na europskoj razini i vjerujem da ćemo sve više omogućiti građanima da imaju uvid u sve zakone i da sudjeluju u procesu donošenja odluka, i naravno da znaju kako se troši javni novac.

Smatram da je to neophodno, jer ćemo na taj način povećati interes i zaintrigirati naše građane da sudjeluju u procesima i da na taj način također možemo postići odaziv na izbore, jer smo rekli da nema dovoljno zainteresiranosti za odaziv na izbore. Mislim da je ovo jedan od načina kako možemo naše građane zainteresirati i zalažem se za što veću transparentnost, a što manju povjerljivost.

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE). - Mr President, this is a very interesting topic. It is obvious that, in the age we are living in, the public, quite rightly, want more information and more transparency, and they want access to documents, above all given willingly rather than having to be extracted like hen’s teeth. This has to be primarily in terms of the way we deal with issues in Parliament, but it must also apply to other institutions.

Sophia in ’t Veld – who has done tremendous work in this area, along with Michael Cashman and Anna Maria Corazza Bildt – has mentioned the EPP. I am not directly involved myself but, having read their comments, I can see that they wish to make a distinction between access to documents, access to procedure and the space to think. This is obviously something that will probably need further discussion and negotiation in due course, but it would be ideal if we could get agreement across the House on what transparency is and which documents are available – and willingly available – to citizens at all times.

 
  
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  Tonino Picula (S&D). - Gospodine predsjedniče, transparentnost rada i rezultata tijela javne uprave te javna dostupnost informacija preduvjeti su za njihovu bržu komunikaciju s građanima i time ukupnu djelotvornost. Pravo na pristup informacijama jedno je od temeljnih prava koje je potrebno osigurati građanima. Izuzetak mogu biti opravdani slučajevi kada dostupnost dokumenata ugrožava privatnost.

Zato je potrebno jasno definirati kriterije za klasifikaciju dokumenata na europskoj razini, a ne izbjegavati njihovu objavu generaliziranjem postojećih nejasnih pravila. Riječ je o temelju boljeg nadzora nad institucijama, ali i izgradnji društva informiranih građana kakvom Europska unija teži. Legitimnost demokratskog odlučivanja proizlazi iz dostupnosti relevantnih informacija koje građani koriste da bi donijeli utemeljenije odgovore. Zbog toga je ovo izvješće važno za demokratski i politički razvoj Unije ako kao cilj imamo transparentniji sustav za sve sudionike, od građana do službenika u javnim tijelima i institucijama. A takvo zaslužuje našu podršku.

 
  
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  Ruža Tomašić (ECR). - Gospodine predsjedavajući, podržavam ovo izvješće jer držim da je načelo transparentnosti jedno od onih oko kojih ne smije biti kompromisa. Cjelokupni rad političkih tijela i javnih institucija, kao i način te opseg njihovog financiranja, moraju biti otvoreno predstavljeni europskoj javnosti kojoj svi mi polažemo račune.

No, pomalo je paradoksalno da Parlament na vlastitu inicijativu želi donijeti ovakvu rezoluciju samo dva tjedna nakon što je u ovom domu izglasano produženje primjene članka 147. Poslovnika, čime je odgođena potpuna primjena hrvatskog jezika u ovoj instituciji.

Činjenice kažu da hrvatskim građanima u ovom trenutku nije zagarantiran ni polovičan pristup dokumentima institucija Unije na njihovom jeziku.

Ovim putem želim još jednom pozvati sve kolege zastupnike da stanemo na kraj ovakvoj isključenosti hrvatskih građana te učinimo sve kako bi oni u što kraćem roku imali puni pristup informacijama i dokumentima Unije na svom materinjem jeziku.

 
  
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  Renate Sommer (PPE). - Herr Präsident! Auch die EVP will Transparenz. Wir sind immer dafür eingetreten. Aber Transparenz muss da aufhören, wo Datenschutz gefährdet ist. Und, Frau in 't Veld, Sie treten doch sonst so sehr für den Datenschutz ein. In Ihrem Bericht tun Sie genau das, was Cashman auch immer gefordert hat und weshalb er ja auch mit seinem Bericht über viele Jahre gescheitert ist. Herr Cashman, ich bin im Übrigen froh, dass Sie das Parlament verlassen werden, wie ich gehört habe. Vielleicht kommen wir dann in diesem Bereich endlich mal weiter. Sie verwechseln den Zugang zu Dokumenten mit dem Zugang zum Verfahren. Und ja, das Gesetzgebungsverfahren ist komplex. Und ja, es gibt dort eine Phase, die man nicht in jedem Punkt offenlegen sollte. Das sind nämlich Triloge. Offensichtlich, Frau Berichterstatterin, haben Sie niemals in einem Trilog wirklich verhandelt. Denn sonst wüssten Sie, dass Sie der Lobby Tür und Tor öffnen würden, wenn Sie da der Öffentlichkeit den Zugang zu Dokumenten gestatten würden.

Sie wollen den Schutz der personenbezogenen Daten runterfahren. Sie wollen wettbewerbsrelevante Daten offenlegen, Sie wollen interne Verwaltungsvorgänge offenlegen. Das geht ganz einfach zu weit und gefährdet personenbezogene Daten der Mitarbeiter, der Verwaltungen, der Institutionen. Sie haben einen Absolutheitsanspruch. Sie haben nicht versucht, überhaupt mit der EVP zu sprechen. Im Gegenteil: Sie haben sich dominieren lassen durch unseren Kollegen Cashman, der diesen Bericht wohl eigentlich geschrieben hat. Deshalb hat die EVP eine eigene Entschließung verfasst, die nach unserer Ansicht die Dinge besser fasst!

(Die Rednerin ist damit einverstanden, eine Frage nach dem Verfahren der „blauen Karte“ gemäß Artikel[nbsp ]149 Absatz[nbsp ]8 der Geschäftsordnung zu beantworten.)

 
  
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  Sophia in 't Veld, blue card question. - First of all, let me say that I am actually not happy that Mr Cashman is leaving us after having done a great job for 15 years. Secondly, I have spoken to the EPP and have supported quite a few of the excellent amendments by your EPP colleague Ms Corazza Bildt. But my question to you is: do you not actually think that the citizens themselves are the best judges of what information they should and should not get? Why is it that you refuse that kind of openness? It does not mean that everything is open; at the moment secrecy seems to be the rule. I do have experience in trilogues. I also have some experience in court, litigating for more transparency. Do you have that experience, Ms Sommer?

 
  
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  Renate Sommer (PPE), Antwort auf eine Frage nach dem Verfahren der „blauen Karte“. – Frau Kollegin! Ich bin seit 15[nbsp ]Jahren Mitglied dieses Parlaments. Ich habe in schwierigsten Trilogen zu sehr strittigen Themen mit unglaublicher Lobbybeteiligung verhandelt. Deshalb weiß ich sehr genau, worüber ich rede. Ja, Sie haben EVP-Änderungsanträge der Kollegin Corazza Bildt akzeptiert. Warum? Weil diese Kollegin eine von denen ist, die Ihre Meinung teilt, Frau in 't Veld. Aber Sie haben sich mit den anderen Änderungsanträgen der EVP überhaupt nicht auseinandergesetzt. Und deswegen ist es richtig, was ich gesagt habe. Sie haben einen Absolutheitsanspruch. Aber Sie haben die Weisheit nicht mit Löffeln gegessen. Es gibt noch eine andere Weisheit. Und die lautet, dass man so viel wie möglich offenlegen soll, aber nicht alles offenlegen kann, was Sie offengelegt haben wollen.

 
  
 

(Fine della procedura "catch-the-eye")

 
  
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  Tonio Borg, Member of the Commission. - Mr President, I wish to thank the rapporteur, Ms Sophia in ’t Veld, for underlining again the crucial importance of the principle of transparency in enabling democratic participation and fostering public trust in the European institutions.

It is certainly the joint responsibility of the Council, Parliament and the Commission to ensure the appropriate transparency in these institutions. This joint responsibility of the institutions also applies to one of the most significant instruments in the field of transparency – the right of access to documents implemented by the so-called ‘Access to Documents’ Regulation.

An ever-increasing number of documents are being disclosed following requests from citizens under this Regulation. The Commission, for instance, handles more than 6[nbsp ]000 access requests per year. This illustrates that citizens are increasingly aware of their rights in this area. The Commission remains the institution handling by far the largest number of requests for access to documents. For instance, more than four out of five requests are granted at the first stage, and there is a relatively low average number of confirmatory applications – approximately 200 per year. The Commission remains clearly committed to implementing access to documents legislation as fully, effectively and positively as ever. In doing so, the Commission takes full account of the comprehensive case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union, which has developed over time and to which the rapporteur herself has made reference.

The rapporteur is putting much emphasis on the issue of trilogues, and given the role of trilogues in legislative procedures, it is clearly the primary responsibility of the co-legislator to define the appropriate level of transparency in this area. The Commission supports the general aim to make the legislative process transparent and easily understandable. The right balance must be struck between transparency and the efficiency of the legislative process. As suggested by Ms Sophia in ’t Veld, the Commission is ready to re-examine, together with the Council and Parliament, the format of our annual reports on access to documents, with a view to making them more comparative.

Finally, as far as the review of the Access to Documents Regulation is concerned, the Commission remains open to a genuine discussion with the two branches of the legislature on the basis of the existing Commission proposals.

 
  
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  Presidente. - La discussione è chiusa.

La votazione si svolgerà martedì 11 marzo, alle 12.00.

 
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