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“Knowledge is power” - Austria towards more transparency

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An old envelope with the heading: Top secret. Photo by Nina M., Flickr

“Knowledge is power” - Austria towards more transparency

24-03-2014

As power derives from the people in a democracy, citizens also should have control over governmental information. On Wednesday, 19 March 2014, our campaigner Daniel Lentfer held a speech in Vienna at the association of Austrian cities (“Österreichischer Städtebund”) in order to underline the need of a transparent democratic state.

The Alpine nation of Austria still has a long way to go when it comes to transparent access to information. An international ranking about rights to information Austria finds that Austria ranks at the very bottom league out of the 97 countries that were researched.  

Usually one city is mentioned when reforms for more transparency are discussed. It is the Northern German city of Hamburg, which approximately has the same size like Vienna. The Hamburg chapter of our German partner organisation Mehr Demokratie had initiated a citizens’ initiative which was adopted unanimously by the Hamburg State Parliament. It forces the city to build a register to publish information pro-actively.

In Austria, more and more organisations start working on the issue, after a campaign led by citizens had raised the issue in Austria. The Austrian government promised in its governing programme to change the constitution and to abolish the idea of professional confidentiality (“Amtsgeheimnis”). The latter obliges people holding a public office to keep secret information.

Also, the Austrian government promised to present the law proposal within the first half of 2014.

A few days ago the Austrian government repeated that they will present their ideas soon (Source). Yet, they made the same kind of promise a year ago too and nothing happened (Source). Let us hope that the Austrian government will keep its promise this time.

More information:

- on Hamburg's law for transparency

- on the Austrian campaign for transparency legislation

Text by Daniel Lentfer

Edited by Cora Pfafferott

Credit: Photo above by Ninja M., Flickr, Source here

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