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 Austria: current state of FOI Katharine Sarikakis, University of Vienna

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Presentation on theme: " Austria: current state of FOI Katharine Sarikakis, University of Vienna"— Presentation transcript:

1  Austria: current state of FOI Katharine Sarikakis, University of Vienna

2 The pillars of the democratic state  Social contract  Authority and power entrusted in state by citizens  State to pursue tasks in the interest of the common good.  Derives legitimacy from within national state publics and international community  Respect for rule of law- fair laws.  Respect for Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms  Responsive state and creation of public value  Maximum participation of citizens in governance

3 Democracy and global access to information  Intensified public debate about access to information at a global scale  Bound with political claims for accountability and responsiveness  Communication technologies and generational experiences contribute to global exchange of information and networking  Global financial crisis since 2008 and endangering of social cohesion gave rise to demands for better governance  Global political revolutions and social movements for accountability and stronger citizen participation in government.

4 European and international standards  Article 19 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)  Lisbon Treaty: member States are bound by Freedom of Information commitments  Article 42 right to Access to Documents European Charter of Fundamental Rights; Article 41 The right to Good Administration  Council of Europe: European convention on Access to official documents  Joint declaration UN and OSCE on protecting free media and expression 2004  PSI Directive 2003 and amended Directive for 2015: reuse fo public data

5 Governance and Access to Information  World Governance Indicators put Austria consistently in the period among the top 10% countries in the world in six indicators.  Voice and accountability has risen to 96%Political stability to 96.7% after period of turbulence in late 1990s and earl 2000s;governemnt effectiveness has fallen at 92% and regulatory quality at 91%; control of corruption all time low at 88% since 2009 risen to 90% in 2013 worldbank.org

6 RTI International rankings  Access Info Europe (Spain) and Centre for Law and Democracy (Canada) SectionMax Score Actual Score Right to Access 62 Scope3023 Requesting Procedures 308 Exceptions302 Appeals302 Sanctions80 Promotional measures 160 TOTAL15037

7 Current tensions  Amtschweigepflicht: duty to secrecy for civil servants “All functionaries entrusted with Federal, Laender and municipal administrative duties…are…pledged to secrecy about all facts of which they obtained knowledge exclusively from their official activity”  No Information Officer (Informationsbeauftragter)  Perceived conflict between freedom of information and protection of personal data  Administrative tensions Laender vs Bundesland vs municipalities

8 Public debates on access to information Austria Access to information in the public domain both press and civil society a.New NGO for transparency in information in Austria founded on September 28, 2014 b.Frag den Staat (ask the State) (fragdenstaat.at) submission of question about a July 2013 report by the Ministry of Finance that calculated the costs on tax losses and unemployment among other things of relocation of companies abroad (Forum fuer Infromationsfreiheit (FOI)). Concordia Prize for Press Freedom. Connected to Transparenzgesetz.at. Over supporters c.Press generally critical of Amtsschweigepflicht

9 State response: constitutional change  “Open government” principle  “Informationspflicht” i.e. Duty to Information  “Universal” i.e. across Bundes- and Laender level Restrictions on the basis of national security; public order and safety. Contested term on restrictions during a “decision- making” process. Economic and financial interests (although tax related access to info under debate)

10 OSCE report on Austria  Change of Administrative Culture necessary: danger that even the law, if weak, will not revert the culture of secrecy  Unclear why secrecy during the process of decision- making  Principle of balancing FOI Right to particular interests.  No provision to access to original documents OSCE 2013

11 MODEL for constitutional reform in Access to information  Strong statement affirming a freestanding universal right of access to all information in the hands of public authorities  Clear limits to permissible exceptions  Information can be withheld only if disclosure would pose risk or harm and if outweighs public interest  Independence of oversight body  Principle of maximum access  Rapid and low-cost processing of requests  Rules on proper information management  Proactive publication of information by public authorities  Sanctions for conduct that violates the right to information RTI Analysis of Constitutional Protections of the Right to Information March 2012


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