Draft Spanish Access Law Remains Inaccessible

24 May 2012

The draft access to information law for Spain has not been released yet, prompting complaints.

Changes have been made to the version put out for public comment in March, and observers are eager to see the latest iteration.

Spain’s Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría on May 18 announced that the Cabinet had advanced the draft bill to the next stage of review. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

Access Info Europe reported May 23 that  “the draft would be made public as and when it is passed for comment to the Council of State and the Data Protection Agency, but that the process of forwarding the law is still ‘underway,’ ” according to sources inside the Cabinet Office.

Access Info criticized the transparency of the process, pointing out that even the public comments have not been released. Almost 3,700 comments were submitted during the public consultation held March 26 to April 10.

A Commission of Experts convened by the Ministry of the Presidency’s Centre of Constitutional and Political Studies, was not informed at its May 17 meeting that a new version of the law had already been drafted and was about to be processed, Access Info noted.

Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe who is a member of the Commission of Experts said, “It is an insult to the high level experts to have them debate a draft law which is already an out of date version.”

Access Info elaborated in a statement:

Some leading constitutions lawyers proposed on 17 May that the law should be amended to recognise a fundamental right of access to information in line with international standards and an analysis by government expert concluded that in its current version the law falls below the standard set by the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents.

In spite of this, according to the minimal information released by the government in a press conference following the Council of Ministers meeting, many of the changes proposed by the public – and now by the experts – have not been taken into account because they don’t “match the philosophy of the law” and to avoid “making gestures towards including provisions which are then not implemented.”

The suggestions which, according to the Vice President, have been incorporated, include, applying the law to professional colleges (e.g. lawyers, architects) and to bodies responsible for public procurement. The law will also require publication of detailed material on public procurement contracts, including on smaller contracts which will be published every quarter.

Another change is to ensure that any information which must be published proactively may also be requested, something which was previously not possible because the limited scope of the right to request information meant that the proactive part of the law is wider in some respects than the right to ask.

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