Posts Tagged Wallström

Danish openness + European openness = citizen in the dark?

Mr. Wium-Andersen enjoys being in the Danish nature. He is very fond of wildlife, nature and birds – their protection is important to him. Obviously he follows closely a case, where protection through European law apparently is stronger than the practice in his native Denmark – in Brussels it would be called an infringement case.

As far as he knows, there is an infringement procedure or at least a correspondence about Danish protection of birds. So he asks for access to the documents. A natural thing to do in Denmark, a country where Nordic tradition says, that public administration is there to provide service for the public, including information about the administration. An educated public, of course, able to think, speak and decide. And used to participate in the public debate on an informed level.

However the Danish ministry declines to give him access. The reason: A provision in Danish access legislation to protect the foreign relations of the Kingdom of Denmark and relations to international institutions.

Well – the EU could be viewed as an international institution. But when it comes to the law about protection of birds and other legislation of similar power, the EU is – really – just a higher administrative level.

And besides: Isn’t it all a good story? The EU and its member states have agreed to protect the nature in favour of our life quality and our children’s future. The Commission – as the guardian of the treaties – is playing its role as it should, reminding a member state to respect the commonly agreed rules. Why would the Commission not be interested in displaying its role as the good guy, taking care of nature protection throughout the continent?

Why mention the Commission here? Because the Danish rejection has in part to do – it turns out – with a letter from the European Commission stating, that it does not want this information out.

Danish citizen Wium-Andersen is upset. Yet he has not given up. But turning directly to the Commission using European access-laws is not of much help. In its rejection the Commission argues with the protection of an ongoing inquiry – in other words it wants to protect its relation with Denmark.

This leaves the Danish citizen in no man’s land: The Danish ministry does not want to give the information to him because it respects the relation with the international body European Commission, and the Commission does not want to give him the information, because it wants to protect Denmark.

A sad story, as it does not exactly strengthen trust in the European administration – be that on European or national level. Does Europe appear intransparent? Yes. And now they even try to influence the Nordic administrations to be less transparent? Not good!

Particularly not good, as this is not the first case. Previous cases were about access to information about consumer protection, media competition and European farmsubsidies.

Why invite to such an obvious potential conflict? Had the Commission and Denmark given access to Mr. Wium-Andersen, he might have written a readers comment in a local newspaper and there would have been a debate with environmentalists and politicians in Denmark about the birds. By hiding the information through apparently kafkaesk methods, the case has moved up including parliamentary questions in the Danish as well as the European parliament.

European transparency must do better than that!

Read the details and documents of the above case on Wobbing.eu.

Read the question in the EP by MEP Anne E. Jensen (ALDE) and the answer by commissioner Margot Wallström.

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