Friday, June 06, 2008

Orwellian society update: bureaucratic secrecy in Brussels

So much for the much-touted open and accountable EU. These fellows already don’t want the rest of us to know what they’re up to in Brussels, and they expect us to give them even more power by voting Yes to the Lisbon Treaty on June 12th?

I suppose there’s one born every minute, but Melancholicus is not impressed.

From The Times:

European watchdog attacks cloak of secrecy in Brussels

David Charter in Brussels

A shroud of secrecy will be drawn over the workings of the European Union under new proposals to limit access to documents and in some cases deny that they even exist, the European Ombudsman cautioned in a strongly worded attack yesterday.

MEPs were called on by the watchdog to stand up for openness in Brussels and oppose an attempt by the European Commission to reclassify which documents are available for public scrutiny.

Plans to withhold papers unless they are formally listed in a new register of documents would deny access to important material and break promises of transparency made under the new Lisbon treaty, the watchdog said.

The changes are being debated under a proposed directive that Margot Wallstrom, the EU Information Commissioner, says is needed to make the rules less vague but which her critics fear will plunge the EU into another secrecy row.

This year the European Parliament refused to release an auditor’s report on widespread abuse of expenses. It can be read only by a small group of MEPs who must go into a secret room and swear not to take notes or talk about the contents.

“The Commission’s proposals would mean access to fewer, not more, documents,” said Nikiforos Diamandouros, the Ombudsman, at a hearing in the European Parliament. “This raises fundamental issues of principle about the EU’s commitment to openness and transparency.”

He gave warning that the changes would mean the European Commission “could share documents informally with a limited number of favoured external recipients of its choice, without having to give public access to them”.

The Ombudsman added: “The Commission’s proposals not only ignore the lessons of the past, but also the new promises to citizens, civil society and representative associations made in the treaty of Lisbon.”

Ian Harden, the secretary-general of the Ombudsman, added that under the proposed register, the Commission could simply argue that papers did not exist if journalists or others requested them.

But Mrs Wallstrom denied that the proposed measures meant that any document currently available would in future be withheld. She added that the new definition of documents was needed to ensure that access was better understood by the public, implying that the current system had been misused by lobbyists.

Methinks she doth protest too much. Perhaps “lobbyists” have indeed made themselves a nuisance by “misusing” the system. But why do the rest of us have to be punished for the alleged offences of these unspecified persons? Think of how convenient for some it would be for all the documentary evidence of the EU’s internal workings simply to disappear, as though into thin air. The commissars would have to explain themselves to no one. They would likewise be accountable to no one. If there is no record of their meeting, that means they never met. If there is no record of their discussion or of the decisions they made, that means no decisions were ever arrived at. And if there is no record of their deeds, that means they never acted.

So they can be reproached with nothing, and not called to account for anything at all.

Dictatorship, anyone?

H/T to Credo.

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