Thursday

14th Dec 2017

Ombudsman takes aim at EU's secret law-making

The European Ombudsman has opened an investigation into the secret meetings between European institutions to shape laws, known as trilogues.

Trilogues have become the main tool by which EU legislation comes about, but they take place behind closed doors with very little public information about the negotiation process.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

In a letter to the EU institutions, Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly wrote that the level of transparency of trilogues “has been drawn to my attention by several MEPs, MPs from some member states as well as by business and civil society groups”.

She told journalists on Thursday (28 May) that the investigation will focus on trying to map what documents exist, before putting to the test which of those should be public.

“I can't say at this stage what should be released, because I don't know what is released, what is withheld, or what is even recorded," O'Reilly said.

“It's a mapping exercise”, added Fergal O Regan, who is the lead investigator.

In June and July, he and his colleagues hold an inspection at the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the Council, which represents the member states.

“More than anything, it's to try and find out what we don't know. What documents are there in the files that we're not aware of, which are relevant to the functioning of a trilogue, and the arrival at an agreement”, said O Regan.

The ombudsman sent letters to the three institutions on Tuesday asking them to provide a list of trilogues; which documents are created, and which are or can be published; and in which language the trilogues take place.

“As far as we know now, there are no joint minutes. ... each institutions may have their own minutes. That's one thing we are going to look at,” noted O Regan.

The Ombudsman office will focus its investigation on two files closed in 2014: the Mortgage Credit Directive (on consumer protection for mortgages) and the Clinical Trials Regulation (EU-wide rules on clinical trials for medicines).

The two were chosen because the issue are “in the public interest”.

“We were initially wondering if we should follow a trilogue that's ongoing”, said O'Reilly, naming the trilogue meetings on the future of roaming surcharges in the EU as an example.

“But then we thought that if we did that, our presence might affect the trilogue.”

Once the mapping exercise is done, the Ombudsman will decide if further steps are needed to improve transparency.

O'Reilly noted that a balance needs to be struck between accountability and speed as the trilogue process is popular for its ability to speed up the legislative process.

“A lot of people like them because they are quick, they are efficient,” said the Ombudsman.

In the past five years, there have been 1,500 trilogue meetings. On the morning of the O'Reilly's announcement, a trilgoue resulted in agreement on the EU's new investment fund.

The three EU institutions have until 30 September 2015 to respond to the Ombudsman's questions.

EU 'must lift lid' on secretive 'deal-making'

Informal meetings have sped up EU lawmaking, but the ombudsman warns that a lack of transparency over the so-called trilogues risks "public suspicion and uncertainty".

Commission wants more centralised eurozone by 2019

EU leaders will discuss at their summit next week the commission's proposals, which include a European Monetary Fund and an EU finance minister - but no eurozone budget, as proposed by French president Emmanuel Macron.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Estonia completes two out of three priority digital bills
  2. EU countries are not 'tax havens', parliament says
  3. Tech firms' delays mean EU needs rules for online terror
  4. Slovak PM: Human rights are not a travel pass to EU
  5. British PM limps to EU capital after Brexit defeat
  6. US pleads for clarity on Brexit aviation 'black hole'
  7. Tusk migration note prompts institutional 'hysteria'
  8. Migration looms over summit, as Africa pledges fall short