given this situation is still very diverse among CEE

given
that only free and rapid information access can make possible collaboration and
participation.

Transparency
based on truthful information allows citizens to take democratic decisions that
have not been influenced by political elite.

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A
country’s prevailing information culture is closely tied to the challenges
placed in front of usual information1.
However, while in some countries the publishing of free information takes place
with reference to a well developed legal framework, the situation in Central
and Eastern Europe is more complex. The right to information does not lead to
the right of citizens to access easily official records. And not to forget,
official secrecy is also a part of the overall legislative system. Whereas in
many countries, the electronic discovery of data implies an obligation to
deliver, in CEE we refer to the term “right to information” or “access right.”
In an ideal world, authorities would deliver information without reference to
any particular occasion. In Australia, for instance, the obligation to publish
is set as the default condition, and the Anglo-Saxon countries have
traditionally restricted information access to a relatively lesser extent. In a
survey in 2003, David Banisar  compared
processing periods and administrative costs of accessing information (Banisar, 2004).
Sweden was in the top place when it comes to the processing period, followed by
Hungary with a period of eight days and the United States with a 20-day
processing period. Austria was at the bootom, showing an eight-week delay.

However,
after more than 10 years, due to the national implementation of the EU regulation
the offering of standardized information by the states had expand, as all CEE
countries worked on a better implementation of the data portals2.
As for standardized information, this situation is still very diverse among CEE
countries. Romania for instance had several issues despite existing national
legal framework3.  However, for the new EU member states this
will change in the near future, as they were obliged to implement the compulsory
EU national data portal and its is a matter of time to have relevant results.

The
freedom of information is an important cause in re-democratization, and is directly
tied to open government and the transparent state. By embracing the principles
of open government, governments of the world could become more effective, transparent,
and relevant to citizens’ lives. This could lead to changing concepts of
governance, a change driven by information technology and the changing role of
the citizen. There are also other implications. By altering information,
hierarchies and adding new forms of governance could also lead to strong
conflicts. We need to ask and think critically about where and when
transparency works. As Lessing stressed, management transparency, which is designed
to make the performance of government more measurable, will advance how
governments work, while making government data available to others has
historically produced enormous value (Lessig, 2009).
Nevertheless, according to Lessig, we need to see what comparisons the acts of
transparency will enable, and whether they are in fact meaningful. In addition,
acting on the Internet always relinquishes a certain kind of control. The
Poland, one of the most advanced CEE countries in terms of transparency, is
still struggling with transparency isuues.

Addressing
the Polish social dialogue problems Wojciech Misztal stressed:
„Civil organizations do
not meet with proper support from the public administration. Furthermore, they
do not know how to defend themselves effectively against
manipulation, reacting with distrust and criticism or easy acceptance of
government proposals. As a result, NGOs lack balanced strategies for
constructive activity that they can express through independent formulations of
their position in regard to the government (Schimanek 2007: 46).
NGOs’ lack of experience in communicating with the authorities is closely
related with their susceptibility to manipulation by the government
administration. Such manipulation consists in limiting access to accurate information,
or any information-a proceeding that successfully blocks the activities of
NGOs.”
(Misztal, 2016, pp. 63–64)

Another problem in the context of open data is,
again, the digital gap. How to access and interpret governmental information
and data sets is not yet well known beyond information elite. For instance, in
Romania, as documents published by public authorities are often written in
sophisticated language, the average citizen might encounter difficulties
understanding the

1 In
Europe, the Swedish Freedom of the Press Act of 1766 was an early milestone in
the state’s obligation to provide the public with information. It stated,
“…anyone is entitled to contact a public authority or agency in Sweden and
request access to an official document, such as a decision it has made. An
individual who makes such a request does not need to give his name or specify
the purpose of his request.” in Sveriges Riksdag (2016).

2 See
Apendix 1 concerning the Directive 2003/98/EC(on the re-use of public sector information)
as amended by Directive 2013/37/EU transposition in national legal framework in
the member states.

3 In
Romania because of the poor results related with the Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) implementation, in December 2015, the newly appointed government decided
to speed up the transposition. The compliance level with FOIA
in the public institutions increased as following:  for the ministries, the level increased from
62% in December 2015 to 95% in February 2016; for the Prefectures, the
level increased from 66% in December 2015 to 97% in February 2016;  for the County Councils, the level increased
from 72% in January 2016 to 93% in March 2016; for the Municipalities, the
level increased from 58% in December 2015 to 83% in March 2016. Ministry for Public
Consultation and Civil Dialogue (2016)

 

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