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Today is International Access to Information Day but a Europe-wide treaty remains largely ignored

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As International Access to Information Day 2020 is celebrated around the world (September 28, 2020), remember that the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents will come into force in nine weeks with most European countries failing to sign or ratify the agreement.

The Council of Europe convention becomes binding on December 1, yet Access Info, an organisation dedicated to defending and promoting information access, warns that only 18 countries have signed the agreement with just 10 of these having ratified it.

Recalcitrant EU states that are yet to even sign include Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

“Across Europe, we have seen access to information laws suspended, and insufficient proactive publication of crucial data on health, decision making, spending and public procurement,” says Executive Director of Access Info, Helen Darbishire.

She warned that in normal times “access to information enables citizens to participate in decision making, to hold governments accountable, and to improve the quality of democracy,” and added that “in a pandemic, information saves lives, and the right to information needs defending more than ever.”

Access Info congratulated Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Sweden and the Ukraine for being the only European states to have signed and ratified the treaty.

Access Infor has published the full list of European countries and their ratification or signing status for the convention here.