EU Commissioners Urge Stronger Role for Offices

8 March 2017

European national information commissioners have called for strengthening their powers and increasing their resources.

“A strong right of access to information can only be fully effective if its implementation is accompanied and supported by strong information commissioners and ombudspersons as mediators between the state and citizens,” according to a joint declaration (in English) (in German) adopted at a meeting of European commissioners and ombudsmen on Feb. 23-24 in Berlin, according to a Feb. 24 press release (in German) from the German Federal Data Protection and Information Commission.

The commissioners urged parliaments and governments in Europe to “to ensure that all people in their countries have the right to access independent offices and to provide these with appropriate funding as well as human and legal resources corresponding with the importance of their task, so that the citizens’ right of access to information is effectively supported and strengthened.”

In addition, the six-paragraph statement says: “The group recognised that Europe needs common FOI standards. These standards should be driven by the commissioners, ombudspersons, parliaments, and governments in a constructive dialogue.”

Freedom of information in Europe “also depends on the exchange of regulatory models and experience,” the attendees concluded. “It is further strengthened by the development of solid common positions by freedom of information commissioners, especially concerning regulatory projects at supranational level.”

During the two-day event, participants exchanged views on the state of information freedom and current cases in their countries, the release says. The first day included speeches and panels (program in English).  The second day was apparently for meetings among the commissioners.

German’s information commissioner Andrea Voßhoff said the exchange highlighted the enormous importance of transparent administration for the citizens and the important role played by commissioners and campaigners, according to the press release.

Professor Dr. Dieter Kugelmann, identified as the chairman of the conference of information officers in Germany, was quoted as  saying that Europe needs common standards of information freedom.

The release ends by indicating that a World Conference of the Information Freedom Commissioners will be held in Manchester, UK, in September, 2017.

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