Transparency issues in the EU
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Fact-checking the European Commission’s press conference on the Commissioners’ expenses – Access Info Europe

Fact-checking the European Commission’s press conference on the Commissioners’ expenses – Access Info Europe | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it
Madrid, 14 August 2017 – On 9 August, European Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva faced a barrage of questions from journalists about the European Commissioners’ travel expenses, after two months of detailed data was disclosed following a three-year campaign by Access Info Europe.

Access Info has fact-checked some of Andreeva’s key statements.
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POLITICO Morgen Europa: Teure Reise

POLITICO Morgen Europa: Teure Reise | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it

Die Flugtaxi-Posse landet punktgenau im Sommerloch. Kommissionspräsident Juncker soll für sich und sein neunköpfiges Team im Frühjahr 2016 ein „Flugtaxi“ für eine Dienstreise nach Rom gechartert haben. Die Kosten dafür liegen bei 25.000 Euro, wie die spanische Organisation access !nfo aufgedeckt hat. Die EU-Kommission verteidigt dieses Vorgehen, der Terminplan habe keine alternativen Reisemöglichkeiten zugelassen. Außerdem seien die Reisekosten von 2927 Euro pro Teilnehmer durchaus vertretbar, wie Mina Andreeva in der launigen Fragerunde während des Midday-Briefings rechtfertigt. Überhaupt bestünden diese Dienstreisen aus harter Arbeit und dem Durchforsten von Dokumentenstapeln. Sicher ein zweifelhaftes Reiseerlebnis. Die ursprüngliche Kritik der spanischen NGO jedoch ist, dass die Informationen zu Kommissions-Reisen generell nicht öffentlich zugänglich seien – und daran wird sich auch nichts ändern. Damit hinterlässt diese Posse durchaus einen schalen Beigeschmack.

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European commission spending thousands on 'air taxis' for top officials

European commission spending thousands on 'air taxis' for top officials | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it
Jean-Claude Juncker and his top officials are spending tens of thousands of euros on chartering private planes, according to documents detailing the European commission’s travel expenses.

After three years of battling with transparency campaigners fighting for full disclosure, the EU’s executive has released two months of travel costs for 2016, revealing regular use of chartered planes to transport Brussels’ 28 commissioners.

The most expensive mission for which details have been released was in the name of Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs. It cost €77,118 for her and aides to travel by “air taxi” to summits in Azerbaijan and Armenia between 29 February and 2 March 2016.
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Commissioners’ Expenses – Access Info Europe

Commissioners’ Expenses – Access Info Europe | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it
Citizens have a right to know how public funds are spent, yet until recently the travel costs
for official trips by EU Commissioners was not public.
Access Info has now won the right to access this information!
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Commissioners spent half a million on travel in two months

Commissioners spent half a million on travel in two months | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it
A visit to Baku, Azerbaijan costing €75,000 was the most expensive trip made by a European commissioner in the first two months of 2016, according to travel expenses scrutinized by Belgian magazine Knack and published Wednesday.

In those two months, commissioners spent close to €500,000 on 261 official trips, Knack’s analysis shows. The costs of accommodation and transport were generally modest: The most expensive overnight stay, in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, cost €629.
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Brexit negotiations

Brexit negotiations | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it

On 29 March 2017, the United Kingdom notified the European Council of its intention to leave the European Union, in accordance with Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. On 29 April 2017, the European Council – made up of the heads of state or government of the 28 EU countries – adopted a set of political guidelines, which define the framework for the negotiations and set out the EU's overall positions and principles.

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The European Commission’s handling of a request for access to documents on salary data for civil servants in the Member States of the EU / Ombudsman

The European Commission’s handling of a request for access to documents on salary data for civil servants in the Member States of the EU / Ombudsman | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it

The European Commission’s handling of a request for access to documents on salary data for civil servants in the Member States of the EU

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Legal Service advice concerning the interinstitutional agreement on the Joint Transparency Register / Ombudsman

Legal Service advice concerning the interinstitutional agreement on the Joint Transparency Register / Ombudsman | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it

The Council’s refusal, following a request from an MEP, to give public access to the opinion of its Legal Service concerning an interinstitutional agreement on a Transparency Register.

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Europe’s K Street

Europe’s K Street | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it
As a nest for lobbyists, Brussels still does not come close to Washington, DC, but it’s going in that direction. There are around 35,000 lobbyists in the capital of the European Union (and Belgium), according to figures from Transparency International. The laws decided there apply to the EU’s 28—soon 27—member countries. That’s why, for example, American technology giants like Facebook, Uber and Google all have offices there. Google has 14 employees in its Brussels headquarters; nine of them have lobbyist credentials to enter the European Parliament.

Brussels’ pull on lobbyists is only likely to grow. French President Emmanuel Macron was elected in May after promising during his campaign to make Brussels not less, but more powerful. He wants to sway other European leaders to appoint the first euro zone finance minister and create an EU budget. More power draws more lobbyists.
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Interview mit Johannes Caspar über Informationszugang zu amtlichen Unterlagen: „Unbefriedigend“

Interview mit Johannes Caspar über Informationszugang zu amtlichen Unterlagen: „Unbefriedigend“ | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it
Wenn Spitzenpolitiker oder Spitzenbeamte ihre Posten räumen, müssen für den Umgang mit ihren dienstlichen Unterlagen rechtliche Regeln beachtet werden. Denn auch wenn der Amtsträger wechselt, sollen wesentliche Vorgänge vollständig und wahrheitsgemäß und damit nachvollziehbar aktenkundig sein und bleiben. Seit einem Beschluss des Ersten Senats des Bundesverfassungsgerichts 20. Juni 2017, über den wir mit der Beschwerdeführerin Gaby Weber und dem Bundesarchiv sprachen, stellen sich einige neue Fragen in Bezug auf die Informationsfreiheit. Denn amtliche Dokumente können zwar nach den Informationsfreiheitsgesetzen des Bundes und der Länder von Jedermann angefordert werden. In der Praxis heißt das aber noch lange nicht, dass man sie auch bekommt.
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abgeordnetenwatch.de | Abgeordnete kassieren Millionensummen von Unternehmen

abgeordnetenwatch.de | Abgeordnete kassieren Millionensummen von Unternehmen | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it
120.000 Euro von der Kohlelobby, bis zu einer halben Millionen Euro aus der Versicherungsbranche: Einzelne Bundestagsabgeordnete haben nach abgeordnetenwatch.de-Recherchen mit ihren Nebentätigkeiten in dieser Wahlperiode beträchtliche Zahlungen aus der Wirtschaft erhalten. Oftmals sind die Geldgeber anonym – Millionensummen bleiben vollkommen im Dunkeln.
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POLITICO Pro Brussels Influence: Transparency register legal complaint — Dieselgate summit — Sugar wars

POLITICO Pro Brussels Influence: Transparency register legal complaint — Dieselgate summit — Sugar wars | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it
SHOW US THE LEGAL BASIS FOR TRANSPARENCY REGISTER UPGRADE TALKS, SAY NGOS: The European institutions will soon begin discussions on upgrading the transparency register for lobbyists, but NGOs are not happy that the legal opinions underpinning those discussions, specifically those informing the positions of the Council of the EU and the European Commission, are not in the public domain. As a result, NGOs filed a complaint with the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, demanding action be taken to force the Commission in particular to publish the documents. “Civil society and MEPs are being blocked from properly debating with the Council and Commission the best model for the future lobby register,” said Helen Darbishire, executive director of Access Info Europe. Brussels Influence obtained (and published) the Council’s legal advice (in German) several months ago, which you can read here. Read the complaint to the ombudsman about the Commission’s stance here.
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How business lobbyists thrive in the EU’s depoliticised media world

How business lobbyists thrive in the EU’s depoliticised media world | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it
The EU policy process is often criticised for being distant from its citizens. As Iskander De Bruycker writes, part of this criticism is rooted in a lack of media coverage of EU legislative decision-making. Drawing on a recent study, he illustrates that the extent to which politicians in Brussels address citizens’ interests in the media over a particular piece of legislation depends on how politicised that issue is. And while EU politicians are more likely to engage with the media on issues that have been politicised by civil society groups, they are less likely to do so over issues that business lobbyists have mobilised around.
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BBCNewsnight: Helen Darbishire on relevance of travel cost figures of European Commission Members

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Lobbyists and lawyers with a heart / POLITICO Brussels Influence

Lobbyists and lawyers with a heart / POLITICO Brussels Influence | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it

A handful of NGOs are doing their best to open up the EU’s notoriously opaque institutions, which regularly rebuff freedom of information requests and demands for access to documents that underpin laws on all manner of subjects. Discussions are underway in Brussels to boost the EU transparency register for lobbyists, and while the institutions are taking significant steps to strengthen the rules, many NGOs are frustrated by their reluctance to publish the legal opinions informing their positions.

The Good Lobby — set up in 2015 by Alberto Alemanno, a law professor at HEC Paris, and Lamin Khadar, an associate at law firm DLA Piper — helps find technical and legal experts willing to work with activists for free. The group worked with Dutch MEP Dennis de Jong and Brussels-based lawyers at Herbert Smith Freehills, one of the largest law firms in the world, to prepare a complaint about the Council of the EU’s refusal to give access to a legal opinion. “The idea is to test ‘administrative strategic litigation’ by lodging two parallel complaints to the EU Ombudsman against two EU institutions that essentially invoked the same exceptions,” said Alemanno, who confirmed that Emily O’Reilly, the ombudsman, has opened an inquiry into both complaints.

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Jean-Claude Juncker's 25,000 euro 'air taxi' revealed - BBC News

Jean-Claude Juncker's 25,000 euro 'air taxi' revealed - BBC News | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it
If the European Commission fears the return of the allegation that the EU is a giant gravy train (or a "gravy plane," maybe), then they did not show it.

Officials mounted a passionate defence of how much the 28 European commissioners spend on travel. It's their job to promote EU policies abroad! It's all within the rules! And the European Parliament approves the accounts!
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Ireland’s tough lobbying rules spark cries for similar laws elsewhere

Ireland’s tough lobbying rules spark cries for similar laws elsewhere | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it
Two years after Ireland introduced some of the strictest laws in the world on lobbying transparency, the reforms are being held up as the gold standard for policymakers looking to shine a light on the often murky world of influence peddling.

Calls for transparency are growing louder across Europe, especially in Germany, where a series of scandals have put a spotlight on the car industry’s close ties with senior politicians.

Ireland’s experience, say proponents of the law, has dispelled worries that tough lobbying rules would cripple the industry or limit the ability of politicians to do their job — as MEPs in Brussels resisting similar obligations have argued.
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European Commission State of play of Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom

State of play of Article 50 negotiations with the United Kingdom
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Europe will be transparent and fair in Brexit talks

Europe will be transparent and fair in Brexit talks | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it
Reaching an agreement depends on the unity of the 27 throughout the two-year period. This is not just a matter of interest for the remaining member states. At the end of the day, the UK will need the EU to agree jointly to a deal. Therefore a united EU is essential for the UK to get a deal. The unity of the 27 will be stronger when based on full transparency and public debate. We have nothing to hide.
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Opinion of the Commission's Legal Service concerning the Joint Transparency Register / Ombudsman

Opinion of the Commission's Legal Service concerning the Joint Transparency Register / Ombudsman | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it
The Commission’s handling of a request from AccessInfo Europe to give public access to the opinions of its Legal Service concerning the transparency register.
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Evaluation der Informationsfreiheit in Hamburg: Transparenz schafft Vertrauen

Evaluation der Informationsfreiheit in Hamburg: Transparenz schafft Vertrauen | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it

22,7 Millionen Zugriffe und 66.000 Online-Veröffentlichungen: Fünf Jahre nach Einführung des Hamburger Transparenzgesetzes und drei Jahre nach dem Launch des Transparenzportals haben externe Gutachter im Auftrag des Hamburger Senats die Auswirkungen des Gesetzes evaluiert.
Alle Behörden der Hansestadt sind verpflichtet, einen großen Teil ihrer Daten und Dokumente aktiv online zu veröffentlichen. Das führt laut Evaluation zu positiven Ergebnissen: „Die Offenlegung von Informationen auf dem Transparenzportal scheint […] dazu beitragen zu können, Vertrauen in das Handeln von Politik und Verwaltung zu schaffen/zu erhöhen sowie die politische Mitbestimmung zu fördern.“

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Das Bundesarchiv und die Informationsfreiheit: Warum Dokumente der Öffentlichkeit verschlossen bleiben

Das Bundesarchiv und die Informationsfreiheit: Warum Dokumente der Öffentlichkeit verschlossen bleiben | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it

Die Bundestagswahlen stehen an, was einige Spitzenbeamte und Spitzenpolitiker unweigerlich ihren Job kosten wird. Es mag nach den derzeitigen Umfragen nicht eben wahrscheinlich sein, aber die Wähler könnten selbst die Rekord-Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel aus dem Amt hieven. Wen auch immer aus der aktuellen Regierungsriege der Wählerwille den Job kosten wird, eine Frage stellt sich bei jedem Regierungswechsel: Wer erhält amtliche Unterlagen und Dokumente derjenigen politischen Spitzenkräfte, die in wichtiger Position die Geschicke der Menschen maßgeblich beeinflusst haben?
Solche Dokumente archivieren beispielsweise öffentlich finanzierte Ämter wie das Bundesarchiv. Die Journalistin Gaby Weber klagte bereits in mehreren Fällen wegen Herausgabe von Unterlagen und seit 2011 auch gegen ebenjenes Bundesarchiv wegen Untätigkeit, weil bestimmte Akten aus der Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung und aus weiteren politischen Stiftungen sowie von der Deutschen Bank zwar eigentlich Bundeseigentum sind, aber nicht herausgegeben werden. Das hat einen einfachen Grund: Das Bundesarchiv besitzt die erfragten Dokumente gar nicht. Weber wollte im Wege einer Informationsfreiheitsanfrage Zugang zu den Unterlagen bekommen und stritt dafür zuletzt mit einer Verfassungsbeschwerde in Karlsruhe.

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Supreme Court of the United States / Filing System

Supreme Court of the United States / Filing System | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it

The Supreme Court’s new electronic filing system will begin operation on November 13, 2017. A quick link on the Court’s website homepage will provide access to the new system, developed in-house to provide prompt and easy access to case documents. Once the system is in place, virtually all new filings will be accessible without cost to the public and legal community. https://www.supremecourt.gov/electronicfiling/

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‘Uffici fantasma’ pagati con fondi Ue: scoppia lo scandalo al Parlamento europeo

‘Uffici fantasma’ pagati con fondi Ue: scoppia lo scandalo al Parlamento europeo | Transparency issues in the EU | Scoop.it
Bruxelles – Molti eurodeputati usano i fondi europei destinati a sostenere le spese per gli uffici nelle proprie circoscrizioni nazionali in modo illecito, “affittando” spazi appartenenti alle loro residenze, ai loro partiti politici o in alcuni casi per pagare uffici che in realtà non esistono affatto. E’ quanto rivelato da un gruppo di giornalisti investigativi di diversi Paesi europei nell’ambito del ‘The MEPs Project’. Secondo gli autori dell’inchiesta, gli uffici di 249 europarlamentari non esistono o comunque non è possibile rintracciarli, e al momento soltanto 133 degli attuali 748 membri del Parlamento europeo hanno detto chiaramente quanto pagano effettivamente in affitti di uffici.
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Ombudsman asked to investigate refusal to publish legal advice on the legal basis for EU lobby register – Access Info Europe

Madrid/Brussels, 28 July 2017 – With upcoming negotiations on reforming the state of EU lobbying transparency imminent, the legal advice given to the Commission and Council on the legal basis for lobby reform is back under the spotlight following appeals this week to the EU Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly.

Access Info Europe’s and MEP Dennis de Jong’s parallel complaints to the EU watchdog challenge the refusals by the two institutions to make transparent their legal advice on whether or not it’s possible under the EU Treaties to set up a mandatory EU lobby register with sanctions.

“Civil society and MEPs are being blocked from properly debating with the Council and Commission the best model for the future lobby register because they are withholding from us their legal analysis of the possible options,” stated Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe.

Civil society organisations such as ALTER EU have argued there is a legal basis for binding legislation on lobbying transparency in the EU, but the Commission decided that the best route was to pursue an instrument that was not legislation, but rather a looser “inter-institutional agreement”. This is arguably a much weaker mechanism that reduces the scope of sanctions for non-compliance and would not necessarily mean all EU institutions are bound to its rules, such as the Council itself.
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