Thursday

29th Sep 2022

Pressure mounts for less secrecy in EU law-making

The European Ombudsman has come out in support of those calling for EU ministers to legislate in a more transparent manner.

In a statement on Tuesday (11 October) Nikiforos Diamandouros said the council has given "no valid reasons" for refusing to meet in public whenever it is acting in its legislative capacity.

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

  • The EU is the only legislature in the world, other than North Korea, that still makes laws in secret (Photo: Council of the European Union)

He called on the institution to "review its refusal to decide to meet publicly" in a special report presented to MEPs in the petitions committee.

At the moment, member states take decisions on EU laws in secret. This allows ministers to indulge in the well-known practice of agreeing an unpopular law in Brussels and then blaming the EU in the face of political heat at home.

The council, which represents the member states, says it is its political decision alone to decide how open a meeting is.

In his report, however, Mr Diamandouros disagrees and concludes that the council only needs to amend its rules of procedure to make legislation-making more transparent.

"In the Ombudsman's view, the Council's failure to do so constitutes an instance of maladministration", his reports states.

Secret decisions that affect EU citizens

The issue came to the attention of the ombudsman when centre-right German MEP Elmar Brok lodged a complaint in 2003.

Mr Brok argued that council decisions directly affect citizens' lives and should be taken openly. He also pointed out that the EU constitution, which is currently in political limbo, contains an article making EU law-making transparent.

The German MEP is not the only politican to make this an issue. Last month a group of influential British MEPs also called on London, as the current EU presidency, to push for more openness.

They pointed out that the EU is the only legislature in the world, except North Korea, that still makes laws in secret.

Commission takes up the case

This issue also features in the European Commission's new communication policy, which is laid out in a paper set to be published on Thursday (13 October).

The paper argues that "the European citizen is entitled to expect efficient, open and service-minded public institutions".

It notes that the commitments by member states to open the council "have not yet been translated into practice".

The communication policy will be presented by Margot Wallstrom, the bloc's first communications commissioner.

Mrs Wallstrom has long argued that one of the ways to bring citizens closer to the EU is for national ministers to be held more accountable for the decisions they make in Brussels.

The EU has been going through a crisis of confidence in its relations with citizens ever since French and Dutch voters roundly rejected the EU constitution earlier this year.

Feature

Why northeast Italy traded in League for Brothers of Italy

EUobserver spoke with several business figures and all confirmed they voted for Georgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy because it promised stability, less bureaucracy and tax cuts. Matteo Salvini's anti-EU rhetoric scared them, while they trust Meloni has "more common sense".

Europe's far-right celebrates Meloni victory

In Warsaw and Budapest, the prime ministers were quick to congratulate the new Italian leader, who — they hope — will back them in their battles with the EU over civil rights, rule of law and democratic backsliding.

EU seeks crisis powers to take control over supply chains

The Single Market Emergency Instrument (SMEI) introduces a staged, step-by-step, approach — providing emergency powers to the EU Commission to tackle any potential threat which could trigger disruptions or shortages of key products within the EU.

Testimony from son rocks trial of ex-Czech PM Babiš

In a fraud trial relating to €2m in EU subsidies, Andrej Babiš son testified his signature on share-transfer agreements was forged. He claims his father transferred the shares to him without his knowledge, making him a front man for scheme.

Column

EU should admonish less, and listen more, to the Global South

Whether on Russia, or gas, or climate change, or food security, the EU's constant finger-wagging and moralising is becoming unbearably repetitive and self-defeating. Most countries in the Global South view it as eurocentric and neo-colonial.

Podcast

How Europe helped normalise Georgia Meloni

Should Georgia Meloni be considered neofascist? She insists she's a patriotic conservative. And indeed, if she's prime minister, she's expected to respect Italy's democracy — if only to keep money flowing from the EU.

News in Brief

  1. EU takes Malta to court over golden passports
  2. EU to ban Russian products worth €7bn a year more
  3. Denmark: CIA did not warn of Nord Stream attack
  4. Drone sightings in the North Sea 'occurred over months'
  5. Gazprom threatens to cut gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine
  6. New compromise over EU energy emergency measures
  7. 15 states push for EU-wide gas price cap
  8. EU: Nord Stream explosions 'result of a deliberate act'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. Everything you need to know about the EU gas price cap plan
  2. Why northeast Italy traded in League for Brothers of Italy
  3. How US tech giants play EU states off against each other
  4. Deregulation of new GMO crops: science or business?
  5. The European shipping giants plying Putin's fossil-fuels trade
  6. Russian ideologue and caviar on latest EU blacklist
  7. Netherlands tops EU social safety net for the poor
  8. New EU rules to make companies liable for their AI failures

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us