cross-border journalism

Slipping through the net

In Archive, Books and reports, Stories on September 16, 2009 at 12:36 pm

In 2009 I analysed the access to information about beneficiaries of EUs fishsubsidies. The subsidies are criticised from various sides, but in large parts of the EU they are hard to access, so decent reporting is difficult.

In spite of the excellent attempt to introduce more openness in the EU by then Commissioner Siim Kallas, transparency did not really improve when it came to fishsubsidies. On the contrary: As data were not held centrally anymore, it was often even more difficult to get them.

This analysis was done for Fishsubsidy.org, and here are some of my findings and recommendations:

“With the introduction of the European Transparency Initiative, the cumbersome process of making access to documents requests relating to EU funds paid under the Common Fisheries Policies should have become unnecessary. Citizens, journalists, political parties and public-interest groups should have direct access to the information – making it easier for citizens and public officials at national and EU-level alike. Unfortunately, this has not happened.”

“The publication of names of beneficiaries represents real progress in budget transparency but this has been accompanied by a reduction in the quality and detail of data and its fragmentation into dozens of often inaccessible sources. With the responsibility for publication of data – including the choice of data format – left to member states, European citizens are cast into a maze of different languages, formats, places and modes of publication.”

“There is a public interest in the disclosure of detailed data on fisheries subsidy payments, including the names of beneficiaries but also other data relevant to the operation of the policy. The data should be published in one place according to a clear and consistent template. The European Commission should take the lead in making this happen while member states remain responsible for the accuracy of the data.

“All information should be published in a user-friendly format, e.g. an html search function and the option to download entire data-sets in a spreadsheet or csv format.”

Read the entire report Slipping through the net.

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