Open Data

Spain Tries to Keep Transparency Process A State Secret…

May 8, 2017

It’s a surreal case…

The High Court in Madrid has ruled that the Spanish Government should provide Access Info Europe with a series of documents related to its participation in the Open Government Partnership (OGP), writes Luisa Izuzquiza.

The decision is an important victory for advancing government transparency in Spain and comes less than three years after the country’s Transparency Law came into force.

The court accepted the argument that  full access to relevant information is essential for civil society to participate in decision making on open government policies.

Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe, made the original request.Essential for Public Participation

Helen Darbishire, the executive director of Access Info Europe and Open Government Partnership Steering Committee member, made the original request.

She said: “We welcome this ruling, both in order to ensure transparency around open government processes in Spain and because the court is supporting the principle that open decision making is essential for public
participation.”

The irony at the centre of the case was not lost on the court, which made clear that there was a particular imperative for the Open Government Partnership to be transparent.

Principles At Stake

Spain is part of the Open Government Partnership, which aims to ensure the participation of civil society and citizenry in the development of public activities.

This includes providing the public with access to the relevant information necessary to put forward opinions, proposals, and improvements in the planning of public policies and to know the criteria being taken into consideration in decision making, and, overall, to meet the goals of the OGP.

The court underscored the democratic principles at stake in this case, and noted that: “Here it’s relevant to apply the maxim ‘information is power’: it is the possibility of participation.”

The Government Went to Court

Ms Darbishire first submitted the information request in August 2015 to the Spanish Ministry of the Presidency asking for status updates relating to the implementation of commitments made under the Open Government Partnership processes.

Not only did the Spanish Government refuse to provide full documentation in response to the initial information request, but when Spain’s Transparency Council ruled in favour of disclosure, the government went to court to challenge that ruling.

The Spanish government now has to decide whether to appeal. If not, it has 15 working days to provide Access Info with the documents.

Luisa Izuzquiza is the Communications Officer for Access Info Europe.