Ombudsman demands transparency from EU Councils

By EDRi · October 20, 2005

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

Press release Ombudsman (11.10.2005)

Special report Ombudsman (11.10.2005)

EU Parliament attempts to win new powers (14.10.2005)