3 October 2011

Access Info Europe - AsktheEu.org


New one-stop portal makes requests for EU documents easy

Brussels/Madrid, Wednesday 28 September 2011 - on 28 September 2011, the 9th
International Right to Know Day, pro-transparency human rights group Access
Info Europe will be unveiling 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 documents.

"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 <http://www.alaveteli.org/>  software
which underpins the UK's successful WhatDoTheyKnow.com
<http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/>  built by the NGO mySociety; it is also
inspired by Germany's FragdenStaat.de <http://www.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@access-info.org | +34 699 354 215

Helen Darbishire, Executive Director, Access Info Europe
helen@access-info.org | +34 667 685 319