'EU risks quashing Swedish transparency'
Ann Törnkvist · 30 Dec 2013, 14:50
Published: 30 Dec 2013 14:08 GMT+01:00
Updated: 30 Dec 2013 14:50 GMT+01:00
- Swedish MPs at risk of corruption: report (12 Nov 13)
- 'Whistleblowers should know where to turn' (22 Feb 13)
In Sweden, citizens can access information from the public sector without giving their name or purpose - which observers call a "pillar" of Swedish democracy. From January 1st, however, Swedish public institutions will be allowed not to give out information out if the issue involves another EU country.
"One can refer to confidentiality in any question with an EU connection," said Fredrik Nejman, head of Sweden's Investigative Reporters Association (Föreningen grävande journalister - FGJ).
"For example, information about the public procurement of services," Nejman told The Local. "The risk is that (the EU rule) will undermine Sweden's right to information law (offentlighetsprincipen)."
"Because the public isn't well aware of the law, it's up to journalists to make people aware of it," Nejman said, although he added it was too early to tell how the EU law would be interpreted on home turf.
"We can't predict what the practical effect will be, but it risks undermining Sweden's right to information law," Nejman said. "I know that in Great Britain, it's almost a rule of thumb to classify everything."
Nejman is not alone when it comes to worrying about the new EU regulation. Swedish Green Party MEP Carl Schlyter told the magazine Scoop that he was keeping a particular eye to confidentiality clauses included in big international deals, such as the EU-US free-trade agreement. He hinted it wasn't coincident that the EU confidentiality law goes into effect as Brussels negotiates trade with Washington, D.C
"They don't want transparency because they know that it would increase the resistance to this kind of deal," Schlyter told Scoop. "And now they want to shut as many people out as possible by limiting the information available, even to elected representatives."
Schlyter was critical of lobbying in Brussels.
"Companies write laws together with public servants behind the backs of elected politicians," he said. "We can hardly call that democracy."