„Hustle" triggered recently by an e-mail addressed from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to addresses of a certain number of participants of famous „screening", stating that all the information from that process within the negotiations with the EU, „based on EU request", shall be considered „official secret" within the „next year" and that they cannot be made available to the media" – has ended in a good way and relatively quickly.
Previously, reactions rightfully came from UNS and NUNS regarding this and such „secrecy". I myself, as the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection have warned that such a limitation of the right of the public does not have any legally valid basis and I have expressed my opinion that the EU for sure didn't impose such requirements. Finally, immediately after that the Minister in the Government in charge of European Integrations reacted, by explicit statement that those information are no secret at all. He explained the incident as... perplexity. Adding that it does not deserve special attention.
And is it really undeserving of attention? Or, is it, at least in my opinion, completely opposite. So: „official secret", and „based on EU request", and „during the next year", and „it is considered", and, in the end the signature of a civil servant of modest rank.
„Official secret" – what does it stand for? Well, it is something which de iure, definitively does not exist. This outdated term has been erased form our nomenclature of secret data already four years ago, by adopting a new nomenclature in the Data Secrecy Act (Article 14). The term „official secret" does not exist either in the EU. How to explain its presence in the official letter of our Ministry?
„Based on EU request" infers a conclusion that this is a „foreign secret data", which is of course recognized in our Data Secrecy Act (Article 2). But, in order to really be such, it would have to be a data which EU has made available for our use, with the requirement that we should treat it as confidential. That is, quite obviously, not the case, as was confirmed by the EU Ambassador in Belgrade. „Next year" should probably be the deadline within which the information should be formally confidential. It is interesting, however, that our Data Secrecy Act knows (Article 19), depending on the degree of confidentiality, different deadlines, from two to 30 years, but a deadline of „one year" is not mentioned in it.
„Shall be considered as a secret." What could this mean? According to our law, nothing is automatically, by itself, „considered" to be a secret. A secret of a certain confidentiality degree is only the thing which has been, in the manner provided by the Data Secrecy Act, determined as a secret. The decision about it, according to the legally envisaged procedure shall be passed by the person authorized by the law. That decision has to be in writing and justified (Article 11).
The fact that such a decision in the specific case is obviously lacking, serves as a „justification" for „shall be considered", but this is no justification at all.
Finally, as already stated, the decision determining that certain information or documents represent a secret, shall be passed by an authorized person. The Law (Article 9) determines a circle of those persons, starting from the President of the Republic, through the Chairman of the Assembly, and of the Government, and Manager of the authority in power, until the persons who can do that based on special, written authorization issued according to the Law. Signatory of this e-mail, „Advisor in the Department for Normative Operations" is not someone belonging to that circle.
Also based on just three-four lines of the famous e-mail, this sad list could be extended even further. But, I do not think there is a need for that. The fact that five asked questions and the e-mail of the state authority „contain" five completely wrong answers, surely deserves attention. In any context, and especially in the context of not only screening, but of the whole negotiations regarding EU accession. Because, the essence of that process should be in our showing that we can pass, and especially, implement the modern laws.