Saturday

13th Apr 2024

Parliament hopes to bridge divide on EU transparency rules

  • MEPs want to broker a deal on EU transparency. (Photo: EUobserver)

MEPs are hoping to bridge the divide between ministers and the parliament on controversial plans to re-draft EU rules governing public access to EU documents. However, the institutions remain divided as they enter the final phase of negotiations under the Danish presidency.

Speaking with EU Observer, Michael Cashman, the centre-left MEP responsible for leading negotiations for the Parliament, insisted that MEPs had “entered negotiations in good faith” but would have to reject the legislation if the Council persisted in aiming for a deal that went back on existing transparency provisions. “No deal is better than a bad deal”, he said.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Hopes of a deal appeared to fade following the release of a negotiating paper prepared by the Danish presidency in mid-May. The presidency paper proposed a series of block exemptions to keep documents relating to infringement proceedings against member states, competition cases, court proceedings and legal advice outside of the scope. It would also give member states an effective veto over the release of documents originating from their country.

The restrictive line in Council is understood to be led by France and Germany with Sweden and Finland among those countries concerned about the potential reduction in transparency.

Meanwhile, the Parliament, which adopted its first reading position in December following a heated debate between MEPs and Maros Sefcovic, the EU commissioner responsible for inter-institutional relations, sought to widen the scope of public access to “ensure that the right of access is guaranteed as a fundamental right”.

With less than a handful of trilogue meetings left between MEPs, Council and the Commission, MEPs are understood to be ready to work with Council in a bid to tackle problems and abuses arising from the 2001 regulation, including loopholes which allow corporate access to EU documents. However, Cashman insisted that the rules "require restoration not demolition" adding that the existing regulation should be regarded as a building block.

The Danes are anxious to secure a compromise agreement by the end of the country's six month term in June amid fears that the incoming Cypriot presidency would not regard it as a priority file. A Parliament source told EU Observer that the regulation would be "a dead duck" if a deal was not reached with the Danes. However, an EU diplomatic source later claimed that "the Cypriot Presidency is interested in continuing the talks should there be no agreement by the end of June."

Failure to agree a compromise text would see the legislation scrapped and Parliament sources indicated that they do not expect the Commission to propose an alternative text.

The legal interpretation of the rules would then have to take account of Article 15 of the Lisbon Treaty, which grants public access to documents from all EU institutions and agencies including the EU’s new diplomatic service, the European External Action Service (EEAS).

The question of public access to EU papers and transparency has become increasingly high-profile. Earlier this month, a ruling by the European Court of Justice on a case brought against the Council by Liberal MEP Sophie In’t Veld, judged that the current regulation does not prevent public access to legal opinions, a loophole which Council and Commission are seeking to close off. There are also pending court cases regarding the release of papers relating to the Commission’s negotiation of the anti-counterfeit treaty Acta.

Commission pushes for document secrecy despite court judgement

The EU commission and national governments are seeking to tighten rules granting access to their internal documents despite a ruling by the European Court of Justice calling on them to release legal opinions drafted by the EU Council’s legal service.

EU states appeal court ruling on transparency

EU member states are set to launch an appeal of a lower court decision with the European Court of Justice hoping to prevent greater transparency in decision-making - even about transparency rules themselves.

UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'

EU and UK negotiators said that a new post-Brexit settlement for Gibraltar was just weeks away from completion following four-way talks in Brussels on Friday (12 April).

Opinion

Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation

As Amazon's founder Jeff Bezos just reclaimed the title of the richest person on Earth, its workers cannot even take a bathroom break under the pressure of meeting inhumane performance targets.

Opinion

The Bolsonaro-Orbán far-right nexus

Defeated far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has given various reasons for sheltering at the Hungarian embassy in Brasilia — none of them make sense.

Latest News

  1. UK-EU deal on Gibraltar only 'weeks away'
  2. Belgium declares war on MEPs who took Russian 'cash'
  3. Brussels Dispatches: Foreign interference in the spotlight
  4. Calling time on Amazon's monopolism and exploitation
  5. Resist backlash on deforestation law, green groups tell EU
  6. China's high-quality development brings opportunities to the world
  7. Ukraine tops aid list again, but EU spending slumps
  8. Who did Russia pay? MEPs urge spies to give names

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us