14th Aug 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.

Draghi's grip on power finally unravels

Italy looked set to lose its highly-respected prime minister Mario Draghi on Thursday, after his attempt to relaunch his grand coalition government ended with right-wing parties joining the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) in deserting him.

Italy back in chaos, as Draghi quits over 5-Star snub

Italy was plunged into fresh political turmoil on Thursday as prime minister Mario Draghi announced his resignation after a key ally within his grand coalition government boycotted a parliamentary vote.

MEP accused of 'disrespecting' female moderator

Some 100 representatives of civil society organisations, including Transparency International EU and Oxfam, accuse German Green MEP Reinhard Bütikofer of disrespecting a moderator because she was a woman of colour and want him reprimanded.


Albania's post-communist dream has lessons for Ukraine

Comparisons between post-communist Albania and current-day Ukraine are fascinating — and make many pertinent parallels. Ukrainians have a similar determination to belong to "the rest of Europe" as Albanians.


Finally, the victims of Utøya got a memorial

A legal battle between locals on the one hand and the state and the labour youth organisation on the other side postponed the inception of the memorial in remembrance of the victims of Anders Behring Breivik.

News in Brief

  1. Germany to help nationals cope with energy price spike
  2. Germany wants pipeline from Portugal
  3. Ukraine urges US to sanction all Russian banks
  4. Spain evacuates 294 Afghans
  5. EU sanctions have 'limited' effect of Russian oil production
  6. Donors pledge €1.5bn to Ukraine's war effort
  7. Sweden overtakes France as EU's top power exporter
  8. Italy's far-right star in European charm offensive

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Defying Russian bombs, Ukraine football starts 2022 season
  2. Sweden to extradite man wanted by Turkey
  3. EU must beware Beijing's new charm offensive
  4. Forest fire near Bordeaux forces over 10,000 to flee
  5. Estonia and Latvia sever China club ties
  6. Russian coal embargo kicks in, as EU energy bills surge
  7. Only Western unity can stop Iran hostage-diplomacy
  8. Kosovo PM warns of renewed conflict with Serbia

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us