MEPs raise ‘grave’ concerns over Council transparency

Written by Martin Banks on 22 July 2019 in News
News

A cross-party group of MEPs have voiced their “grave concern” about the “opacity” of the Council, branding the institution “a veritable black box” which has been lagging far behind the Parliament and Commission on transparency.

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The MEPs also urge the Finnish government to refuse any “sponsorship” of its current EU presidency, an issue that has attracted particular criticism in recent months.

In a letter, the deputies also want to see Finland establish a ban of “sponsorship” for all future presidencies.

Other demands featured in the MEPs’ letter include the Council joining the EU Transparency Register; “proactive” publication of all lobby meetings held by the Finnish Permanent Representation in Brussels and the public release of all Council working party meeting minutes, including negotiating positions.


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The members also want a review of the practice of inviting lobbyists to address Council working party meetings.

The letter to Finland’s Prime Minister Juha Sipila, seen by this website, is signed by, among others, Heidi Hautala, Jo Leinen and Martin Schirdewan.

They want lobby transparency to be “placed at the heart” of Finland’s EU presidency. Finland took over the presidency from the Romanian government on 1 July.

Hautala, Leinen, Schirdewan and their colleagues say they hope to “foster a wider public debate about ways to boost democracy and accountability in the Council as well as in the Member State governments it represents.”

“In terms of transparency, the Council has a long way to catch up with Parliament and Commission. Citizens have a right to know who lobbies member state governments in the Council, which interests are represented and who is financing the lobbying” Jo Leinen MEP

Hautala said, “The beginning of a new legislative term is the best time to set new, higher standards for transparency and accountability. Finland is in pole position to lead by example and take concrete action to increase openness within the EU.”

Leinen told this website, “In terms of transparency, the Council has a long way to catch up with Parliament and Commission. Citizens have a right to know who lobbies Member State governments in the Council, which interests are represented and who is financing the lobbying.”

Schirdewan added, “The continuing lobbying power of big corporates at the EU level is outrageous. Especially the Council is a big black hole when it comes to transparency. It is high time it stepped up its game and became more accountable to EU citizens.”

Reacting to the letter, Corporate Europe Observatory’s transparency campaigner Vicky Cann commented: “We need a big push on all fronts and especially in the Council to improve transparency and lobbying rules in the EU.”

“The Council is a big black hole when it comes to transparency. It is high time it stepped up its game and became more accountable to EU citizens” Martin Schirdewan

“2019 is a year of massive change in the EU with a new European Parliament and Commission – it’s the perfect opportunity to boost transparency.”

No one from the Council was immediately available for comment.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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