Moment of Truth For Transparency and Democracy in Europe

CAMPAIGNERS for open government today called on members of the European Parliament and leaders of the European Union not to betray the promises made three years ago in the Amsterdam Treaty to give citizens greater access to official information. This week the European Parliament in Strasbourg will vote on plans to create new rules that could increase transparency surrounding the work of lawmakers in Europe. "Members of the Parliament have the chance to speak for all citizens and not for narrow political interests," said Gustl Glattfelder, Chairman of the European Federation of Journalists. "The Amsterdam Treaty promises a fresh start for open government and the people's right to know - now is the moment of truth for transparency." The EFJ today circulated a pamphlet of Essays for Openness to all Members of the European Parliament arguing strongly for new rules on the right to know that will no longer make it necessary for citizens to fight for their rights through expensive and lengthy legal actions. A range of different proposals for introducing new rules come before the Parliament in Strasbourg this week and the EFJ, along with other campaigning groups, is calling for Parliament to adopt plans that will guarantee the maximum amount of openness. The Parliament debate comes amidst a row between member states over how much openness to grant in Europe. The Council of Ministers, pressed by NATO, wants to restrict access to official documents. The European Parliament and three governments - the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden - are opposing these moves and have issued a legal challenge against the Council. "The Council of Ministers must respect the citizen's right to know in order to strengthen peoples' confidence in the European Union, " said Gustl Glattfelder. "These Essays present an unarguable case for greater democracy and openness for all." Copies of the Essays, which include contributions from the Editor of Statewatch Tony Bunyan, the leading openness lawyer Deirdre Curtin and EFJ General Secretary Aidan White, are available from the EFJ are can be downloaded (Word format). The European Federation of Journalists is the regional organisation of the International Federation of Journalists. It represents more than 200,000 journalists in 36 European Countries.