This reality makes it difficult, in practice, to exercise the right to know. In Italy, according to Luca Giunti of the organisation Openpolis, “the procedure has an implicit cost in terms of time and resources (e.g. lawyers who can follow the case)”, which means that a large proportion of citizens do not make requests for access or, if necessary, do not follow up with legal demands.
In Germany, according to Arne Semsrott, spokesperson for FragDenStaat, “the main problems are slow answers and fees; it’s possible for authorities to take up to 500 € per request” if it will take more than a nominal amount of time. Not only that: although the deadline for a decision under federal law is one month, those who request information and do not get it must wait three months to complain. This means that in many cases, the actual time to respond to requests is longer than the four weeks set by law.
As a result, the common trend is that requesters must fight almost constantly to obtain data from public administrations. In addition, authorities can also limit access to public information by restrictions that turn into real barriers. Among the usual exemptions are the right to privacy, economic and commercial interests, or national security. The application of these limits is often uneven, creating uncertainty for requesters. This is the case in Poland, for example: “The reasons for not providing information can be arbitrary,” says editor Urszula Kifer of Frontstory.
Except for Italy and Spain, whose transparency laws are more recent, most of the countries surveyed in this investigation have transparency laws that date back almost a quarter of a century, yet those countries have not resolved the problems with implementing their transparency laws. In other cases, such as in Greece, regulatory gobbledegook hinders the right of access. This is an obstacle for ensuring transparency, despite the fact that, according to the sources consulted, on paper, the regulations marked a turning point in public accountability.
Original source: https://civio.es/tu-derecho-a-saber/2023/06/29/access-to-public-information-foia-europe/