Israel Watchdog Group Sues European Union for Transparency Failure
NGO Monitor Bringing Suit to Compel Full Disclosure of NGO Funding Activities
(JERUSALEM, January 20, 2010) NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based watchdog group, announced at a press conference today that it has brought suit against the European Commission (EC) for failing to fulfill EU transparency obligations regarding the distribution of funding to non-government organizations (NGOs).
NGO Monitor President Professor Gerald Steinberg said that his group resorted to legal recourse after 13 months of attempts to secure documents detailing non-governmental agency funding by the EC, the executive branch of the European Union. Under the European Freedom of Information law, such funding details must be made available upon request. However, the EC cited “public security,” “privacy,” and “commercial interests” in denying NGO Monitor’s information request.
NGO Monitor legal counsel, Trevor Asserson of Asserson Law Offices, dismissed these reasons as “absurd” and “essentially unsupportable.” He described the EU activity as “typical of the types of obfuscation that one gets when someone does not want to do what they are meant to do.”
The lawsuit, filed yesterday at the European Court of Justice, seeks “to obligate the European Union, which claims to be a law-abiding institution and committed to looking out for the interests of world peace and security, to act according to its mandate and reveal these documents and the full extent of their funding.”
NGO Monitor disclosed that its researchers identified 177 million shekels provided by the EC since June 2005 to NGOs active in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Many of these organizations are active in the strategy of demonization which seeks to isolate Israel, using lawfare and boycott campaigns. The organization alleges that EC allocations are made without full public disclosure of its decision-making processes or evaluation procedures.
“We therefore argue that absent appropriate documentation, European citizens are in the dark as to how their taxpayer funds are being used,” Steinberg said. “If the European Union were to actually comply with its regulations, we wouldn’t be here right now.”