On May 20, 2020, the Parliament of Ukraine adopted draft law No 0032 “On Ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents” and became the 10th country to ratify the Council of Europe Convention on Access to Official Documents, otherwise known as the Tromsø Convention, and effectively brought into force the world’s first international treaty on access to information.
The Convention was adopted by the Council of Europe in the city of Tromsø in Norway and has been open for signature since June, 2009. Prior to ratification by Ukraine, the Convention had been ratified by Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Moldova, Croatia, Montenegro and Lithuania.”
It is the first binding international legal instrument to recognize a general right of access to official documents held by public authorities.
OlenaLytvynenko, Deputy Head of the Council of Europe Office in Ukraine said: “Ratification of the Tromsø Convention is an important signal. It shows that Ukraine is a proactive state that is able to develop and share valuable practices, as well as demonstrates Ukraine’s desire to ensure the transparency of public authorities and promote transparency in other countries.”
On her part, YevheniiaKravchuk, Deputy Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy, underlined in her Facebook post: “Thanks to this, Ukraine today has the opportunity to demonstrate its ability to be fully engaged into the development of international standards on access to official documents, to disseminate successful experience in providing public information, to become a real flagship in this field.”
The Convention sets forth the minimum standards to be applied in processing requests for access to official documents (request forms), review procedures of decisions taken. It is important that the ratification of the Tromsø Convention does not require introducing radical changes in Ukrainian legislation, as the Ukrainian Access to Public Information Law already takes into account most of its requirements, with the exception of access to archival documents.
“The Projects of the Council of Europe together with the civil society partners for a long time have advocated for and kept informing about the importance of ratifying the convention. Thanks to the ratification of the convention, it will enter into force in ten member-states of the Council of Europe, including Ukraine,” — GalynaSmirnova, Senior Project Officer of the “Project European Union and the Council of Europe working together to support freedom of media in Ukraine,” enthused.
With the Tromsø Convention becoming effective the monitoring bodies in the sphere of access to public information whose actions will be aimed at monitoring of the implementation provisions of the Convention by signatory states will be established for the first time: Group of Specialists on Access to Official Documents and the Consultation of the Parties.
The Group of Specialists on Access to Official Documents will consist of a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 15 members, chosen from among persons of the highest integrity recognised for their competence in the field of access to official documents (Article 11). The representative of Ukraine will be a part of this group.
The Group of Specialists whowill perform the reporting on the adequacy of the measures in law and practice taken by the Parties to give effect to the provisions set out in this Convention will have such competences as:
- expressing opinions on any question concerning the application of this Convention;
- making proposals to facilitate or improve the effective use and implementation of this Convention, including the identification of any problems;
- exchanging information and reporting on significant legal, policy or technological developments.
The Consultation of the Parties will be convened by the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe within one year after the entry into force of this Convention in order to elect the members of the Group of Specialists.
The Convention will enter into force on the first day of the month following the expiration of a period of three months after the date on which 10 member States of the Council of Europe have expressed their consent to be bound by the Convention.
One of the priorities of the Council of Europe and European Union Project “European Union and Council of Europe working together to support freedom of media in Ukraine” is improving access to public information for media and society.