29 April 2009

Towards Transparency for Europe

Regular readers of this blog will have spotted that I've been posting more about transparency recently. Of course, it's a natural extension of openness, and can equally be thought of as open government. Whatever you call it, it's apparently problematic for some people:

In the run-up to the European elections, some websites are trying to monitor MEPs according to their attendance in plenary sessions and committee meetings. But in practice the task is proving extremely difficult. EurActiv France contributed to this report.

Last week, one such website, www.parlorama.eu, was forced to shut down after its initiator was flooded with complaints from MEPs.

Flavien Deltort, a former MEP's assistant from Italy, had attempted to rate parliamentarians according to their attendance in plenary sessions, committee meetings and broader participation in parliamentary life.

But only two days after launching his website last week, Deltort was forced to close it down "due to the overwhelming volume of complaints". Threatened with prosecution by many MEPs, he decided to temporary close the website.

Although some of that prickleness may have been justified, I think it also shows that here in Europe we have a long way to go before we achieve open government. The US is already ahead, with campaigners like Larry Lessig working hard to make things more transparent, as well as splendid organisations like the Sunlight Foundation:

Our goal through our grant-making, blogging, projects, and technical leadership, is to use the power of the Internet to shine a light on the interplay of money, lobbying, influence and government in Washington in ways never before possible.

We need something similar here in Europe, but it looks like it's going to be a struggle to achieve that.

Follow me on Twitter @glynmoody.

No comments: