On 28 September 2011, the 9th International Right to Know Day, pro-transparency human rights group Access Info Europe unveiled the AsktheEU.org web portal by which the public can ask for information from EU bodies.
AsktheEU.org is a designed to radically simplify the process by which the public puts requests to European Union bodies: an email is sent from the website to the relevant
EU body. All requests sent via AsktheEU.org and the responses are instantly made
public. Requesters will have the opportunity to “me too” a request so that more than
one person receives the answer, easing the workload on EU officials.
Other features of the site include allowing requesters to rate responses for quality and
comprehensiveness, permitting other users to comment on answers. If requesters are
dissatisfied, the site helps them file appeals (“confirmatory applications”) and gives
guidance on how to complain to the European Ombudsman or to go to the European
Court of Justice.
Launching AsktheEU.org portal, Access Info Europe raised the concern that 10 years
after the EU’s access to documents rules were adopted in 2001 there are still only a
very small number of requests each year: around 12,000 in a region of 500 million
people, meaning that at most 0.0024% of Europeans are exercising this right.
There are still significant problems with EU transparency in practice: around one third
of the complaints made to the European Ombudsman concern problems accessing EU
“The AsktheEU.org portal will redress the democratic deficit in Europe whereby
decisions are made far from citizens and yet only a small clique of lobbyists, academics
and NGOs can master the current decentralised and complex system for filing
requests,” commented Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe.
“We aim to make the right to know about what the EU is doing a real right for all
Europe’s citizens and residents. AsktheEU.org will reduce the burden on EU officials who
will not have to answer the same request repeatedly,” added Darbishire.
With use, AsktheEU.org will generate statistics on the time EU bodies take to respond
to requests, the exceptions applied, and the rate of administrative silence, for example.
In this way, a clearer picture will emerge of what improvements need to be made in
order to guarantee greater transparency of the EU.
AsktheEU.org runs on the Alaveteli software which underpins the UK’s successful
WhatDoTheyKnow.com built by the NGO mySociety; it is also inspired by Germany’s
FragdenStaat.de, from the Open Knowledge Foundation, and similar sites in countries
ranging from Kosova (InformataZyrtare.org) and Chile (AccesoInteligente.org). Access
Info Europe and partners are currently preparing TuDerechoaSaber.es in Spain and a
similar website in France.
For more information – in English, French or Spanish – please contact:
Pam Bartlett Quintanilla, Researcher, Access Info Europe: pam[at]access-info[dot]org
Helen Darbishire, Executive Director, Access Info Europe: helen[at]access-info[dot]org