Access Info has today published on its website the minutes of Spain’s weekly Cabinet meetings for the years 1996 to 2017, making them available to the public for the first time in Spanish democratic history.
The minutes, which contain the desicions reached in each weekly meeting, were obtained using information requests by Access Info as part of collaborative research with journalist Jesús Escudero, and have been published to mark the third anniversary of the entry into force of Spain’s Transparency Law on 10 December 2014.
“This is a huge step forward for Spanish democracy,” commented Alba Gutiérrez, Researcher and Campaigner at Access Info. “Before the Transparency Law, the Cabinet had complete discretion about what it made public.”
Analysis of the minutes by Jesús Escudero of El Confidencial has shown, for example, after the end-of-year Cabinet meeting of 30 December 2016, it was announced that the decisions had been taken on the level of pensions and the minimum salary, but no public mention was made of a total of 53 other decisions such as official pardons granted and denied, compensation claims, authorization of ambassadors, extraditions and transfers of prisoners, and even a change of surname. Other minutes reveal the role of the Cabinet in classifying and declassifying official secrets.
“Obtaining the minutes demonstrates how the public’s right of access to information delivers accountability of high-level decision making and spending of public funds,” explained Alba Gutierrez, Campaigner and Researcher at Access Info Europe.
Access Info’s work to open up the Spanish Cabinet started in 2016 with an initial request for the agendas of the weekly Cabinet meetings, documents which were then used by various journalists as the basis for further investigations.
Access Info is calling for information on decision-making processes to be made public: “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” concluded Gutiérrez, “The government should now ensure proactive publication of the minutes not only of Cabinet meetings but also those of other decision-making processes.”
In spite of this success for the public’s right to know, Spain’s Transparency Law remains a weak instrument, situated at position 80 out of 115 laws on the RTI Rating. Access Info, along with 20 civil society organisations from the Coalición Pro Acceso, is calling on the government to strengthen the Law by adopting amendments put forward in the Parliament by various political parties as part of current debate on a Whistleblower Protection bill.