Ombudsman demands transparency from EU Councils
The European Ombudsman (Mr Diamandouros) has come out in support of those calling for EU ministers to legislate in a more transparent manner. His report follows a call from a group of influential British MEPs on the UK to push for more openness, according to an article in EU Observer. "They pointed out that the EU is the only legislature in the world, except North Korea, that still makes laws in secret."
The European Constitution would have obliged the Council to open their doors, but many ministers have wilfully misinterpreted the rejection of the Constitution as a signal against public control on their decision making processes. The Ombudsman already sees enough legal ground in an earlier vital EU agreement; in Article 1 (2) of the Treaty on the European Union (as amended by the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997).
The Council argued that the degree of openness of its meetings was a political choice to be made by the Council and said Article 1 (2) of the Treaty on European Union merely indicated that the future Union should be as open as possible. The Ombudsman takes the view that this future has already begun with the Treaty of Amsterdam and the degree of openness is not a political decision but a fundamental right.
At the same time, the European Parliament is also trying to get more influence on procedures initiated by the European Commission of which the details are arranged by committees with representatives of the member states, the so-called Comitology procedure. This Comitology procedure also plays an important role in the debate about the data retention proposal, because Parliament would not have a veto right on decisions taken by member states in comitology to expand the scope of the law. And if member states cannot agree with the Commission, the Council may take the matter in its own hands and take a decision. A group of MEPs led by UK Labour MEP Richard Corbett will be appointed by the European Parliament's constitutional affairs committee to try and negotiate a right to oversee - and where necessary, call-back - decisions taken by the comitology committees.
Press release Ombudsman (11.10.2005)
Special report Ombudsman (11.10.2005)
EU Parliament attempts to win new powers (14.10.2005)