By Maryant Fernández Pérez

On 12 July 2016, the European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly adopted a decision that asks for a reform of trilogues. In her decision, she follows many of our recommendations. The Ombudsman is the body dealing with maladministration in the European Union (EU).

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Trilogues are informal negotiations conducted between a small number of representatives of the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament and the Commission to rush the adoption of EU legislation – laws which have an impact on the lives of 500 million people. While this system can be efficient, trilogues nonetheless undermine EU’s democracy, transparency and accountability. Due to long-standing criticism, the European Ombudsman decided to investigate on the transparency of the trilogues process. After conducting an investigation and receiving 51 responses to a public consultation, including from EDRi, the European Ombudsman now recommends that the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union:

  1. Publish a “trilogue calendar” and to include trilogues in the institutions’ public databases;
  2. Pro-actively publish the Parliament’s and the Council’s positions vis-à-vis the Commission’s proposal before trilogues start, regardless of the legal status of their positions (for example, regardless of their positions being a “general approach”, the result of a Parliamentary committee vote, etc);
  3. Publish summary agendas before or shortly after trilogue meetings;
  4. Pro-actively publish the evolution of the “four-column documents”, which present a comparison of the Commission’s initial proposal, the position of the European Parliament and the Council, and a the compromise text between the institutions, including the final text, as soon as possible after the conclusion of the negotiations;
  5. Make available links to minutes and videos of public trilogue meetings in the institutions’ databases and respective calendars;
  6. Pro-actively disclose details of the policy-makers involved in trilogues, including civil servants;
  7. Pro-actively publish a list of trilogue documents to facilitate access to public documents’ requests;
  8. Work together to publish as much trilogue information and documentation as possible via a user-friendly database.

The European Ombudsman does not go as far as we would have wanted to, but the recommendations, if acted on, would represent a huge step forward for more accountability, democracy and transparency in the European Union. The institutions have until 15 December 2016 to inform the Ombudsman on the actions they intend to take

European Ombudsman’s decision concerning the transparency of trilogues (12.07.2016)
http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/cases/decision.faces/en/69206/html.bookmark

EDRi: Trilogues: the system that undermines EU democracy and transparency (20.04.2016)
https://edri.org/trilogues-the-system-that-undermines-eu-democracy-and-transparency/

EDRi’s response to the European Ombudsman’s public consultation on the transparency of trilogues (31.03.2016)
https://edri.org/files/transparency/TriloguesConsultation_EDRiresponse.pdf

(Contribution by Maryant Fernández Pérez, EDRi)

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