Using access-to-document requests to support health policy advocacy | Workshop Report


11:00 | Welcome & Introductions

  • Dr Milka Sokolović – Director General, EPHA

11:10 | Primer: Freedom of information laws as an advocacy tool

  • Dr Eleanor Brooks – University of Edinburgh

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11:30 | The role of the EU Ombudsman’s office

  • Markus Spoerer – Policy Adviser, European Ombudsman’s cabinet

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12:00 | Q&A with the Ombudsman’s office

12:30 | Lunch

13:15 | Case studies in the use of FOI/A2D requests

  • Nutriscore and food labelling – Emma Calvert, BEUC
  • AVMSD and alcohol advertising – Dr Kathrin Lauber, University of Edinburgh Download the presentation
  • Environmental campaign – Frederik Hafen, EEB Download the presentation
  • Spain & medicines – Javier de la Cueva, Javier de la Cueva law firm

14:15 | Open session: exploring the possible uses of A2D laws in health policy advocacy

14:50 | Closing Remarks

  • Dr Milka Sokolović – Director General, EPHA

Objectives and participants 

This workshop sought to introduce access-to-document (A2D) systems to EPHA and its members, and explore how they can be used to support health policy advocacy. 

A2D requests are commonly used by journalists and transparency advocates to obtain information that supports advocacy activities, but they are less commonly used by health, environment and other advocates. This workshop was designed to introduce EPHA members and partners to A2D systems – focusing on the EU system but also highlighting examples from national systems – and showcase some of the ways in which they can be used to support advocacy and campaigning.  

The workshop, targeting mainly EPHA members, gathered 28 participants, including EPHA members, speakers, key partners, and EPHA team members. 


The event started with Dr Eleanor Brooks (University of Edinburgh) presenting what EU A2D laws provide for, what kind of information can be requested, and how to submit access-to-document requests. For instance, the website AskTheEU was presented as a tool to submit such requests. 

A guest speaker from the office of the EU Ombudsman, Markus Spoerer, then introduce the mandate and role of the Ombudsman, and how it can assist those making A2D requests. The EU Ombudsman addresses complaints, and can develop strategic inquiries on own initiatives. The Ombudsman does not make binding decisions, but provides recommendations. 

A panel of speakers from across policy and academia then presented examples of projects that have used A2D requests, and offer practical guidance on the benefits and challenges involved. Emma Calvert from BEUC presented the campaign regarding front-of-pack nutrition labelling, particularly the Nutri-Score, and the lobbying around that issue. Then, Frederik Hafen presented EEB’s experience with A2D requests. He also shared recommendations on how to develop the requests, such as asking for a list of all documents related to a particular file to then be able to make a specific document request. Javier de la Cueva then presented the work of Fundación CIVIO and his experience with transparency cases in Spain. Particularly, he introduced the investigation carried out under the initiative Medicamentalia and prices transparency on medicines. Finally, Dr Kathrin Lauber presented elements from the Better Regulation for Better Health project regarding the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD), how A2D requests were used in that research, but also the challenges that were faced. 

The workshop closed with an open Q&A session with the participants.

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