EC promises greater access to information: Even as a non-secrecy pledge is given, Brussels bureaucrats apply old-style censorship to a press release

THE Commission of the European Community this week committed itself to more openness, greater transparency on mergers, and better information for consumers.

It was unfortunate that on the same day the EC's executive bureaucracy sent out a press release from which parts had been censored. Despite a year of upsets with the public rapidly losing confidence in the EC, it seems that old habits die hard. 'Deleted on grounds of confidentiality' was the phrase used twice in the document which dealt with revision of merger regulations. The document concludes that the Commission wants 'to make its procedures and decisions more transparent'.

But not that transparent, it seems.

The Commission also on Wednesday approved a new set of procedures to ensure that policy initiatives are properly publicised and that public opinion is monitored more closely. This is part of the Commission's response to declining public support and to widespread criticism that it is too secretive. Policy will be co- ordinated by a new Information Strategy Group, which will include Joao de Deus Pinheiro, the Communications Commissioner who drew up the new procedures.

The Commission also examined revisions to its merger policy that should make them more open to public scrutiny. At the moment, decisions are frequently shrouded in secrecy and it is often far from clear to outsiders how they have been reached.

A study by the Centre for Economic Policy Research earlier this year said there was a real danger that large corporations would effectively 'capture' the regulatory process and turn it to their own ends. It added that the lack of transparency made it hard to judge how fair decisions were.

The new proposals make things better, allowing for greater disclosure of information. But they do not go as far as some outside experts have advised, by making the EC's merger task force more independent, for instance.

The Commission also approved a three-year action plan for consumer policy, intended to give consumers greater information on their rights. But BEUC, the body that represents EC consumer organisations, has criticised the action plan as too vague.

All this matters because there is growing evidence that people question whether the EC works for them. The Community's own opinion poll, Eurobarometer, shows that less than half the EC's citizens believe their countries benefit from membership. And a majority of citizens feel ill-informed about the Community in every country. The Commission is trying to prove that it is prepared to be more open, and it wants to demonstrate that it can do things that are of practical use, like consumer policy.

Its efforts have not been notably successful so far. A study by outside experts on communications policy earlier this year recommended manipulating the press to give a more favourable judgement. It led to the press walking out of a briefing on the subject and was quietly dropped.

A great deal of information does come out of the Commission: yesterday there were no fewer than 46 press releases of various kinds, dealing with Nepalese flood victims to the Belgian economy. But it is the quality of information that is at issue.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable