When Sweden took over the EU Presidency, there were expectations of rapid progress in increasing the openness of the decision-making process in the European Union. The Finnish national daily, Helsingin Sanomat (11 March 2001), thinks that the results have been meagre. In a leading article, the paper points out that this does not, however, mean that Sweden has abandoned its campaign for openness. Instead, the Swedes have been unwilling to settle for watered-down compromises.
This paradoxical situation can be explained by the fact that the country holding the Presidency can only aim for the lowest common denominator among the opinions of the member countries. Sweden prefers returning to its openness campaign with new energy when its Presidency is over, Helsingin Sanomat writes.
"When it comes to striving for openness, only real achievements count. Nordic countries should not give up defending principles which they consider important. Sweden should be respected for wanting to fight for more ambitious results."
Helsingin Sanomat writes that there has been much talk about increasing openness in the EU, but the results are modest, if not non-existent.
"The working style of EU officials is fraught with a mentality of secrecy. Their attitude towards public availability of documents is negative.
"More and more applications to obtain documents are being presented to the Commission. In spite of this, an ever greater number of applications are being refused, even if the Amsterdam Treaty requires speedy acceptance of principles of openness.
"The EU Ombusdman Jacob Söderman wages a courageous battle in defence of openness. Now he suspects that the EU's officials' code of conduct is in conflict with freedom of expression because they prohibit giving out any information before the publication of documents. Söderman has asked the President of the Commission, Romano Prodi, for clarification."
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