The results of the successful six-month EU Twinning Light Project “Strengthening the Capacity of the Agency for the Protection of Personal Data and Free Access to Information” were presented at the EU Info Centre. The project, funded by the European Union with €250,000, was conducted by the Information Commissioner of the Republic of Croatia in cooperation with the Agency for the protection of personal data and free access to information from Montenegro, with the aim of improving the system and improving the right exercise free access to information in Montenegro.

In his welcoming speech, Hermann Spitz, the Head of the Cooperation section at EUD Delegation to Montenegro, stressed that the Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro supports the reform of the public administration not only through this project, but also through other projects in Montenegro. He also highlighted the sectoral budgetary assistance to the Government of Montenegro which was paid in December 2018 through the first tranche of €4 million, and that this assistance will be directed, among other things, to solving the current problem related to the administration’s silence in Montenegro.

Croatian experts held a series of training sessions for the employees of the Agency and for the inspectors on the application of the provisions of the Law on Free Access to Information. A total of five representatives of the Agency for the Protection of Personal Data and Free Access to Information participated in a study visit to the Republic of Croatia where they learned more about the practice of this country in the implementation of the Law on Free Access to Information, Open Data Portal, re-use of data and cases of related to the administration’s silence.

Dubravka Bevandic, the Head of the Service for the Protection of the Right to Access Information in Croatia, pointed out that the overall outcome of the project was to strengthen the efficiency of the system of exercising the right to free access to information in Montenegro in accordance with EU standards and good international practice.

“The specific goal was to reduce the number of cases of authorities silencing the administration and the number of annulled decisions by the Council of the Agency for the Protection of Personal Data and Free Access to Information by the Administrative Court as a result of the correct implementation of the Law on Free Access to Information and the Law on Administrative Procedure of first instance and second instance authorities,” said Bevandic.

In the framework of the project, a manual for the first instance authorities and a second-instance decision-making body on the requests for free access to information has been developed, with a proposal for changes to the relevant legal framework. Support was also provided for the establishment of a registry for public authorities of the first instance with a view of facilitating the submission of requests by citizens, and through a system elaboration aimed at identifying and limiting the abuse of free access to information.

As a significant result of this project, the Agency for the Protection of Personal Data and Free Access to Information will work on the proactive publication of information and data from the first instance authorities on the Open Data Portal.