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Transparency – a condition for trust

2009/09/09

”Transparency and Clear Legal Language in the EU” was the title of a conference organised by the Swedish Presidency in Stockholm yesterday. The title speaks for itself – as should be the case when we communicate in clarity! Justice Minister Beatrice Ask, the European Ombudsman Nikoforos Diamandouros, Peter Hustinx, the European Data Protection Supervisor and Eleanor Sharpston, Advocate-General at the European Court of Justice, were among the speakers at this well-attended event.

We know that transparency is a fundamental condition to ensure confidence in public administration, and something that no doubt leads to a higher degree of legitimacy and efficiency. This goes for national governments and local authorities, but transparency is also a key to increasing the citizens’ trust in the European institutions. The same goes for clear language, because how can we expect the public to trust the EU if laws or court rulings are only understood by lawyers?

A lot can be done through legislation, but a culture shift among both politicians and staffers is also necessary if EU citizens are to reap the true benefits of transparency legislation. This takes time, and the EU needs to continue on the road of reform – not least in light of the low turnout in the June elections.

The EU regulation on access to documents (often called regulation 1049), that was finalised during the last Swedish Presidency in 2001, is currently subject to revision. The 1049 is an important piece of legislation, that has worked well and served as a way to establish transparency as a general rule in the institutions. This issue is not uncontroversial, but the Swedish Presidency’s aim is to conclude negotiations on the revised regulation this autumn, with a result leading to more transparency – definitely not less.

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