Sunday

4th Dec 2022

Brexit transparency is 'political play', says EU watchdog

  • The letter formally starting the Brexit process was made public immediately, but the remaining EU-27 want other documents to be released, too. (Photo: Council of the European Union)

The promise by the EU to be as transparent as possible in the negotiations with the UK over its exit from the bloc is “political play”, said the European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, at a press conference on Wednesday (24 May).

She spoke two days after the Council of the European Union, where national governments meet, had published a document that laid out rules on when to publish documents relating to the Brexit negotiations.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

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

... or subscribe as a group

  • O'Reilly: 'I'm not naive enough to think that this is because the Council and the Commission have fallen in love with transparency all of a sudden.' (Photo: European Ombudsman)

“Ensuring that the negotiations are conducted in a transparent manner will be one of the keys of their success,” the document said.

In a letter to the ombudsman, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had promised in April that the EU's transparency policy on the Brexit talks would be "unique and unprecedented".

The document adopted in Monday puts a “strong emphasis on everything being shared,” O'Reilly's noted.

But she said that this push for transparency has more to do with the fact that UK prime minister Theresa May “has urged quite the opposite: secrecy, warning against leaks, threatening sanctions against people who leak”.

“I'm not naive enough to think that this is because the EU council and the commission have fallen in love with transparency all of a sudden. I see this as political play,” said O'Reilly.

The Ombudsman annual report, published on Tuesday, noted that transparency issues, like access to documents requests, were the office's most prevalent issue over the past two years.

“It's been our experience that [the] council has been the least transparent of the big institutions,” O'Reilly said.

However, she said that some improvements were visible, even if it is more of an evolution than a revolution.

O'Reilly noted that the EU commission under the leadership of Jean-Claude Juncker, who took office in November 2014, has made transparency “one of the hallmarks”.

She noted that, in particular, the experience with talks for the EU-US trade agreement, TTIP, was important.

“There was a complete change of heart within the commission when they saw the engagement of civil society, when they saw the impact of social media,” said O'Reilly, noting that the commission became much more transparent about the talks after public protests.

Somewhat related to that, the European Ombudsman also said that Brexit will have a “positive impact” on the engagement of citizens with politics happening at EU level.

“People are more curious about it, a lot more people are engaged. That adds to the pressure perhaps particularly at council level for greater transparency,” she said.

More transparency from the council is also key to reducing euroscepticism, she said.

“Typically people say, when they don't like a certain policy, 'it's Brussels', and they imagine it's the commission and it's the commissioners, and it's a very narrow group of 'faceless bureaucrats', unelected, making unaccountable decisions and so on,” said O'Reilly.

“What I've been trying to say to the council, and to EU institution leaders as well: If you want to break through the myths, if you want to break through the caricature, then you have to allow people to see how laws are actually made, and how power is actually distributed as between the EU institutions and the member states.”

EU gives mandate for Barnier to take on Brexit

In its final preparatory act before Brexit talks begin, the EU has officially given the negotiating mandate to Michel Barnier. The French politician said he would like to start negotiations on the week of 19 June.

Transparency is key EU tactic in Brexit talks

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said his mandate and all EU commission working documents will be made public during the negotiations. Tactic or policy shift? This time, the EU is interested in transparency.

Swedish EU presidency: 'Ukraine, Ukraine, Ukraine'

Ukraine and a looming economic recession is set to dominate the upcoming Swedish EU presidency, which takes over at the start of next year. Sweden's ambassador to the EU, Lars Danielsson, laid out some of its priorities.

French official accused of conflict over EU fish lobby job

A senior French official is being accused of conflicts of interest for spearheading a leading role in Europeche, a fishing-industry lobby group based in Brussels. The hire comes as the EU Commission threatens a lawsuit against France over fishing.

Portugal was poised to scrap 'Golden Visas' - why didn't it?

Over the last 10 years, Portugal has given 1,470 golden visas to people originating from countries whose tax-transparency practices the EU finds problematic. But unlike common practice in other EU states with similar programmes, Portugal has not implemented "due diligence".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. EU must break Orbán's veto on a tax rate for multinationals
  2. Belarus dictator's family loves EU luxuries, flight data shows
  3. How Berlin and Paris sold-out the EU corporate due diligence law
  4. Turkey's EU-funded detention centres ripe with abuse: NGO
  5. In green subsidy race, EU should not imitate US
  6. EU Commission proposes suspending billions to Hungary
  7. EU: Russian assets to be returned in case of peace treaty
  8. Frontex leadership candidates grilled by MEPs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us