Spain Drafting New Transparency Law

19 August 2010

The Spanish government is commencing work on a “Transparency and Access to Information Law,” an initiative signaled by a leak to the media.

The draft, a copy if which is still unavailable, was quickly criticized as inadequate.

The public learned of the proposal Aug. 16, when the Spanish Daily El País reported a few details and said that the Spanish Council of Ministers on Aug. 20 would consider approval of the draft law.

Access Info Europe condemned the leak and urged a full debate and structured public consultation around the draft law. “Up to now, the only information that we have about this law has come from leaks in the media. This is precisely the culture that must change to allow citizens to hold their governments accountable and participate in the decision-making processes of a modern democracy” commented Helen Darbishire from Access Info Europe.

Spain is the only large European country that does not guarantee the right of access to information, but based on the information leaked, Access Info said that “even with new law, Spain will remain behind other countries in many respects.” The group elaborated, “For example the time frame for public institutions to respond to requests will be 30 days, with the option to extend it to 60 days, while the European average is just 14.5 days.” Also, the proposals does nto appear to cover all administrative bodies.

“After various attempts by the Coalición Pro Acceso to encourage the publication of the draft law or to obtain a statement from the government on this subject, the only information which civil society has about the future law is the analysis of El País, who have had access to the draft,” according to Access Info.

Access Info suggested that the law would be too weak to meet all the basic principles of the right of access to information, which in turn will make it difficult for Spain to ratify the Council of Europe’s Convention on Access to Official Documents. The Convention is the world´s first treaty on access to information and marks the minimum standards that ensure that the right of access to information is respected.

Access Info Europe supported the apparent decision to make the Spanish Data Protection Agency the law’s oversight body, with the name of Agencia Española de Protección de Datos y de Acceso a la Información (Spanish Agency of Data Protection and Access to Information).

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