Ombudsman welcomes Parliament’s support for transparency work

Written by Martin Banks on 22 January 2019 in News

European Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly has welcomed Parliament’s “strong vote of support” for her recommendations to improve the transparency and accountability of EU national governments’ legislative work in Brussels.

Photo Credit: European Parliament Audiovisual

In a report, voted and approved last week in Strasbourg, Parliament endorsed by a wide margin the Ombudsman’s recommendations on transparency and accountability.

O’Reilly has responded by saying this will help Europeans follow EU law-making more easily and highlight the “central role” national governments have in deciding EU legislation.

Speaking on Friday, O’Reilly said the lack of legislative transparency in the Council has allowed the ‘blame Brussels’ culture to endure for far too long.


She said the vote this week will “help convince national governments - in this most important EU election year - to agree to make EU law-making more open, so the public can see who is really taking the decisions.”

“This will require a culture change in the Council, away from old-style diplomacy where much is kept hidden, to a more open and democratic way of working.”

“Taking no action would further damage EU democracy, as this crucial part of the EU legislative process is not open to citizens.”

“It would be unthinkable at national level for ministers not to tell citizens their positions on national legislation, however this is essentially what happens when the same ministers meet to decide on EU legislation,” said the Ombudsman.

“[The vote] will help convince national governments - in this most important EU election year - to agree to make EU law-making more open, so the public can see who is really taking the decisions” EU Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly

Among her recommendations are that Member State positions are recorded in meetings of national ambassadors which decide on EU legislation.

The Ombudsman first opened an investigation into the transparency of the Council’s legislative work in 2017.

As the Council did not reply to her inquiry within the stated deadline she decided to ask Parliament for support in a special report.

There have been only 19 special reports from the Ombudsman to Parliament since 1995. Four previous reports have concerned the Council, including one concerning the importance of the Council legislating in public issued before the Lisbon Treaty.

Meanwhile, on 31 January, Parliament will vote for the first time on binding rules for the lobbying transparency of MEPs, as part of a reform to amend the assembly’s rules of procedure.

German deputy Sven Giegold, Parliament's rapporteur for transparency, accountability and integrity in the EU institutions, criticised the fact that the vote will be carried out by secret ballot.

“A secret ballot on transparency would be a farce, putting into doubt the reputation of the European Parliament,” he said.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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